Zeke Motta waited patiently for his turn as a full-time starter at the backend of the Notre Dame secondary.
After spot duty during his first three seasons in South Bend, Motta started all 13 games in 2012 and it was because of good reason.
Four-year starter Harrison Smith had moved on to the NFL where he started 16 games for the Minnesota Vikings and finished fifth among all rookies with 104 tackles.
“Our games are similar,” Motta said of the comparisons between him and Smith. “I think that he’s had a great rookie season and he’s done awesome. He’s definitely set the bar high. I’m looking to try and go out there and exceed those expectations.”
Motta, who started 16 games alongside Smith in 2010-2011 before becoming a full-time starter past season, has stayed in close contact with his former teammate.
“I called (Smith) a few times leading up to this point, just to seek some advice,” Motta said at this year’s NFL Combine. “He told me to be myself — that was probably the best advice. Everything else is going to take care of itself. Control what I can control — that’s what I’ve been doing.”
Both Motta and Smith fit the mold of tall, rangy safeties that have the ability to fill multiple roles in NFL secondaries.
The safety position at the next level is continuing to evolve with more spread attacks forcing all members of the secondary needing the ability to cover receivers.
“I’m sure it’s hard to evaluate because you know you have corners who can play safety and you don’t want to have just a safety that’s a safety,” Motta said.
“You want to be able to have guys that are versatile. You’ve got to be able to do it all. You want to be able to cover deep and come up and make big hits, which is something I think I bring to the table.”
Throughout the draft process Motta has constantly been asked what separates himself from the rest of the safety draft class.
He once again points to Smith and both choosing to keep their demeanor even-keel at a position that such an attribute is so vital.
“I think the way I go about my business,” Motta said of what separates him from other safeties.
“I’m not one of those rah-rah type guys. I try to keep my head down and have a business-like approach. I try and continue to improve and learn from people who have been there and done it and try and do better than that.”
Tags: harrison smith, Notre Dame Football, Zeke Motta
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27 February 2012
In being named a Notre Dame captain before the start of the 2011 season, Harrison Smith became just the fourth player in the last 40 years of Fighting Irish football to be chosen as the team’s only captain for a season.
Smith wrapped up a decorated career on the defensive side of the football for the Irish where he started 47 of 51 career games.
During the 2008 and 2009 seasons, Smith played as an outside linebacker before moving back to his more natural position of safety in his final two years.
In playing both positions Smith feels he has the ability to defend tight ends in pass coverage and he showed it by finishing his career second in Notre Dame history with 28 career pass breakups.
“That’s something that I think I’m good at, and that I can bring to teams, is the ability to cover tight ends man-to-man,” Smith said. “It’s something I did throughout my career. In practice I got to go against Kyle Rudolph, who was a high draft pick last year. This past year I went against Tyler Eifert, and he’ll be picked next year. So just being around good competition and going up against it every day in practice.”
Having to make the switch from linebacker to safety could benefit Smith in the long run as he has the experience at two different units on a defense.
“I think I’m a versatile player,” Smith said. “And on top of that, I’m a guy who’s going to be able to get the defense lined up, recognize formations, make checks and just communicate the defense.”
Tags: career games, eifert, harrison smith, kevin bowen, natural position, versatile player
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