Blue and Gold Illustrated

December 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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4 DECEMBER 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED G iven the situation Notre Dame senior Nick Coleman finds himself in during his fi- nal season with the Irish football program, if the versatile defensive back harbored any bitterness or showed symptoms of self- pity, he probably could've been forgiven. With 14 starts and 37 games played through his junior year, Coleman, a full-time starter last sea- son, entered 2018 as one of the most experienced play- ers on the Irish defense. But an influx of new talent at the safety posi- tion made Coleman the odd man out as a starter this season and dimin- ished his reps on the Irish defense in the same way senior quarterback Bran- don Wimbush had his role reduced on the Notre Dame offense when he surrendered his starting duties to junior Ian Book. What else do these two Irish se- niors have in common beyond their demotions? Coleman and Wimbush share a sense of pride in the program and to their preparedness, even if they are no longer the front-line play- ers they were last year. Instead of pouting or withdraw- ing, Coleman and Wimbush have re- mained engaged with their coaches and committed to helping their younger teammates while remaining ready for when their number is called. Wimbush started at quarterback in relief of Book and led the Irish to a 42-13 win over Florida State Nov. 10, while Coleman has been used in spot duty this season as a backup at nearly every position in the defen- sive backfield. "With me being out of the picture some weeks," Coleman said of his hit- and-miss playing time, "this was just an opportunity to be in more of a lead- ership role, have more of a leadership role with the guys who were in there." For Wimbush, his contributions be- hind the scenes during practice and on game days have gained the at- tention and appreciation of the Irish coaches, leaving head coach Brian Kelly and his staff searching for ways to get their versatile athlete more in- volved in the game plan, even if it's not necessarily at quarterback. "I think he would like this to be much more about there's more to the story, and let's not write the obituary yet," Kelly said of the outlook Wim- bush adopted upon losing his starting duties. "… I think there's more excit- ing things coming from Brandon." The fact that Wimbush and Cole- man are putting team first and stay- ing involved in their diminished roles is commendable during this era of me-first football and speaks to the high character players Kelly and Co. recruit to the Notre Dame model. Irish senior lineman and captain Alex Bars is another example of how team success stretches well beyond individual performance. Bars, a preseason All-American, suffered a season-ending knee injury against Stanford Sept. 29 that required sur- gery and prematurely ended his fine Notre Dame career. But instead of dropping out of school and leaving the team to rehab and prepare for the 2019 NFL Draft in the way Ohio State defensive lineman Nick Bosa did, Bars re- mained enrolled in school and entrenched with the team as a player-coach and a valuable leader. "Alex is with those younger guys, that second group, he's with them as really a mentor," Kelly explained of Bars' contri- butions during practice. "And he's going through the script with them. He's another coach on the field for us, doing a nice job with them." Coleman said this self- lessness and leadership the veterans have demon- strated this season cannot be overly celebrated and has become part of the fabric in a program loaded with young talent. "It's one thing to hear everything from a coach," Coleman said. "It's another thing to hear it from your teammates." Former Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant is another player who followed a me-first plan when the senior starter was benched after the fourth game of this season, immedi- ately announcing upon hearing the news that he would leave the team and seek a graduate transfer. Now, to be clear, Bosa and Bryant did what they believed was best for their football futures. Yet, there is still reason to recognize the three Notre Dame players who could've similarly lost interest with the way their sea- sons have unfolded but didn't. "I try not to let football dictate my happiness, I've worked too hard to be vengeful," Coleman said. "My class, especially, we've been through the ups and downs, and we've put in the work to put our program back where it needs to be and I just didn't want any of that to go to waste." ✦ Diminished Roles Not Slowing Three Irish Seniors UPON FURTHER REVIEW TODD D. BURLAGE Todd D. Burlage has been a writer for Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 2005. He can be reached at Senior Nick Coleman, who entered this season with 14 starts and 37 games played during his Irish career, has remained engaged despite being used only in spot duty as a backup at nearly every position in the defensive backfield in 2018. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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