Irish: Returning and Recovering

Kelly discusses six Irish injured and out of action this season, the potential returns of defensive end Chase Hounshell (later) and Sheldon Day (Saturday), and the prospects of the program's inside linebackers, both present and future.

Notre Dame's relative health wasn't greatly impacted by it's week away. Expected to return, again, is sophomore defensive end Sheldon Day, who, save for one snap on special teams in Cowboys Stadium on October 5, has been out since the fourth quarter of a September 14 win over Purdue.

"He practiced on Monday and we expect him to play on Saturday," said Kelly, though that's been the refrain each of the last three game weeks.

Kelly offered that the Irish defensive line could receive unexpected aid from junior Chase Hounshell, presumed out for the season -- for the second straight year -- due to spring shoulder surgery.

We're going to put some pads on him," said Kelly. "I think he's close to ten days, two weeks maybe where he's going to have some pads on him. There are issues relative to two consecutive years (should he not play this fall) where there's a potential for hardship waivers and things of that nature," he added. "I just can't get into those at this point. But we're going to address those as he gets closer to putting the pads on."

Confirmed out for the season are Arizona State game casualties Daniel Smith (broken ankle) and Jarrett Grace (broken tibia), both of whom had successful surgery performed post-game, as well as August walking wounded Tony Springmann (knee surgery) and (S) Nicky Baratti and (LB) Doug Randolph, both of whom had shoulder surgery.

Kelly added that true freshman wide receiver Torii Hunter has progressed well from a broken femur suffered on January 1 during a high school all-star game practice. "He's a young man, probably without the injury, would probably be competing for playing time as well. Great speed and quickness, very sure-handed, has a lot of the attributes that we thought he did. So we're very excited about him, but he will not play this year."

Inside Issues

WIth the aforementioned Grace out of action, true freshman Michael Deeb has left his scout team duties for varsity action. Kelly though noted the plan is to keep the Plantation, Florida product off the field if possible.

"He'll take some reps there, but it will be Dan Fox and Joe Schmidt as one, two (first- and second-string) at (the Mike linebacker) position. It will be Carlo Calabrese and Kendall Moore at the Will linebacker position, and Michael will be the swing guy at Mike. If there's any need at that position, Michael would be the swing guy.

"We'd like not to have to play him if we could, but if we have a situation there where a man goes down, he's got to be ready to play. So we're preparing him to play, and he's capable of playing. We'll just  obviously, we think that we're set there right now with those two guys."

Both fifth-year players, Fox and Calabrese will depart the program at season's end. So too could the little-used senior Moore. Should Moore move on, Notre Dame would be left with just four technical inside linebackers (including 2014 freshman Greer Martini) in addition to Doug Randolph (prior to surgery) and junior Anthony Rabasa -- former perimeter 'backers that have worked inside as practice competitors this season.

"We've got plenty of guys that can play there," said Kelly when asked about the apparent dearth of future able bodies inside. "There's a lot, if you just look at the body types, we've got plenty of guys. Coach (Bob) Diaco, if he needs to, he's got plenty of guys that can play inside, even if they're not on the roster as mike linebackers.

"We feel like there's enough guys on the roster that, if we needed to, we can get them ready to play those positions. We're just not having those discussions at this point. I don't look at it and go, 'Oh my God, there's nobody that can play at that position. We can't get it done.'

"I'm confident that, when it's time to roll out the ball next year, we'll be solid at those positions."


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