(Note: The number listed in parenthesis is the years of eligibility remaining and the listing of a player's class is based upon the upcoming 2012 season.)
On the roster
Safeties departed: Harrison Smith, Dan McCarthy (could be granted a fifth year)
Safeties returning: 5th-Jamoris Slaughter (1), Sr.-Zeke Motta (1), Jr.-Austin Collinsworth (2), Soph.-Eilar Hardy (4), Fr.-Chris Badger (4), Fr.-Elijah Shumate (4), Fr.-Nicky Baratti (4), Fr.-C.J. Prosise (4), Fr.-John Turner (4)
Possible position switch: Jamoris Slaughter and Eilar Hardy have some cornerback play in their backgrounds, as does incoming freshman John Turner. Slaughter also has a successful track record as a Dog (outside) linebacker.
Committed safety recruits: Elijah Shumate, Nicky Baratti, C.J. Prosise, John Turner
Safety offers (2011-12): Shaq Thompson (Sacramento, Calif.; Cal commit), Alex Carter (Ashburn, Va.; Stanford commit), Travis Blanks (Tallahassee, Fla.; Clemson commit), Deon Bush (Miami, Fla.; Miami commit), LaDarrell McNeil (Dallas, Texas; Tennessee commit), Jordan Diggs (Cape Coral, Fla.; South Carolina commit), Jarrod Wilson (Akron, Ohio; Michigan commit), Demetrious Cox (Jeannette, Pa.), Reggie Daniels (Chandler, Ariz.; Oregon commit)
Safeties on the ND board: None
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Junior safeties verbally committed: None
Junior safety offers (2012-13): Su'a Cravens (Murrieta, Calif.), Marcell Harris (Groveland, Fla.), Leon McQuay III (Seffner, Fla.), Max Redfield (Mission Viejo, Calif.), Dymonte Thomas (Alliance, Ohio; Michigan commit), Jayme Thompson (Toledo, Ohio), Nick Washington (Jacksonville, Fla.)
With the return of veterans Jamoris Slaughter and Zeke Motta, the development of Austin Collinsworth, the promise of red-shirt freshman Eilar Hardy, four incoming freshmen, and the arrival of Chris Badger this summer, Notre Dame's future at safety looks as promising as it could following the departure of mainstay Harrison Smith.
Slaughter is an established playmaker, regardless which position he plays, and Motta has a ton of experience. Still, without Smith - who concluded his Notre Dame career with 51 games played, 47 starts, 309 tackles, 18 ½ tackles for loss, 28 passes broken up and seven interceptions - the Irish lose the leader of the operation, a role which now falls on the shoulders of Slaughter (and Motta to a lesser extent).
Motta is the key man on the last rung of the defense. He concluded his junior campaign with a fumble recovery for a touchdown in the Champs Sports Bowl, and now has 38 games and 16 starts under his belt. Consistency has been an issue at times, which is a concern without Smith to direct traffic.
Collinsworth would appear to be the next in line at safety, although virtually all of his playing time the last two seasons has been on special teams. He played some dime back for the Irish in 2011, but remains inexperienced as a safety after converting from receiver during his freshman season.
The Irish could use a healthy spring and fall from Hardy, who preserved a year of eligibility in '11 after suffering a knee injury. Hardy should be ready to go this spring with an opportunity to make a mark at safety. He is a candidate to balance out the depth chart at cornerback, although his best position probably is safety.
All four true freshman safeties and Badger won't arrive until the summer, so it's difficult to evaluate which of the five might make an impact in 2012. Elijah Shumate appears to be the most physically prepared of the incoming freshman quartet and, for what it is worth, is the highest rated of the group.