A second surgery conducted Friday has pushed back the senior's timetable further.
"He had surgery yesterday to place a rod in his leg," said head coach Brian Kelly. "The complications from that (initial) surgery are such that I don't want to get into all of them. The rod was placed to stabilize the healing process. He had four breaks (initially).
"(Friday's) surgery went very well…the indication is, there's been great growth there. The rod is for stabilization, and we'll know in six weeks, if he heals the way he did, prior to, there's great optimism that in six weeks, that he'll be ready to go."
Asked if such a timetable pushes Grace's return to full strength into instead prior to the season, Kelly offered, "I think if the rods were for the breaks being unstable that he'd be rounding into shape later, and we'd be using the season to get him there. But if we get the growth we're expecting, he'd be ready."
Notre Dame's inside linebacker unit has just three scholarship players this spring: 5th-year senior Kendall Moore, senior Joe Schmidt, and redshirt-freshman Michael Deeb. Schmidt has put obvious distance between himself and his competitors.
"He's way ahead of the guys in terms of the defense," said first-year defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder. "He's real superior in the learning area, so he's got a good grasp of it already. He's a good communicator, a great standard and expectation guy. He has great pride in himself. That's obvious. A coach gets attached to that kind of player. He's a guy who has really jumped out in terms of his ability to grasp (situations."
Kelly echoed his coordinator's praise of Schmidt but noted spring ball would not determine the team's starters at the position.
"I think everything's on the table at that position," Kelly offered Saturday. "Joe Schmidt is a very smart player, he's a *scholarship player for us. He's doing the things we want him to do. I really think it's too early to tell. For us to use the spring, to determine who the (starting linebacker) is, is not something we're concerned with."
Kelly added that the position's pecking order won't be determined until incoming freshmen linebackers join the fray for fall camp and that he does not foresee moving veterans to inside linebacker as part of the competition.
(*Schmidt earned a scholarship last summer after working as a preferred walk-on in both 2011 and 2012.)