SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — The loss of cornerback KeiVarae Russell while Notre Dame determines whether five football players were involved in academic fraud has given Cole Luke a chance to show what he can do.
The 5-foot-11, 190-pound sophomore played solidly in the opener, with Rice completing only two passes against him, one for a 2-yard gain. Irish coach Brian Kelly said he was pleased with Luke's play.
"I thought he played with confidence. I really liked just his demeanor. I think that's really big at that position," he said.
Kelly said it seemed Luke had appeared ready to settle for a backup role until Russell was suspended.
"Once he became a starter you could see everything elevate in the way he walked, the way he talked, the way he went to meetings," Kelly said. "There was that sense of urgency in everything that he did. I think since that day, we've seen a growth in elevation in everything he has done within practice."
Luke said he bought into Kelly's doctrine that no player is indispensable.
"Somebody has to step up, regardless of who it is or what position. So somebody had to fill that role. We can't play with one corner," Luke said. "I just felt it was my time to step up my game and take it to the next level."
After last season, when Bennett Jackson graduated, Luke had been expected to vie for a starting position. That changed when Cody Riggs transferred from Florida for his final year of eligibility and took the spot opposite Russell, whom Kelly had been touting as one of the nation's best lockdown corners.
Before he was suspended, Russell had talked about looking forward to facing Michigan again after struggling in last year's game, giving up a pair of touchdowns and being called for pass interference in the end zone.
Continue reading this story on the...