Unfortunately for Brian Kelly, he’s seen this before.
For the fourth time in four years the Irish lost a frontline player during the off-season due to academics, with sophomore tight end Alizé Jones the latest casualty.
On Wednesday evening Jones tweeted that he won’t play for the Irish this season after failing to make grades. Notre Dame confirmed the sophomore won’t play for the Irish this season and that he remains enrolled in school. Jones can practice with the team and work out inside the Gug, but he won’t travel to away games.
Jones continues a disturbing trend for Notre Dame following Everett Golson’s season-long suspension (2013), the soap opera that cost KeiVarae Russell, Ishaq Williams, DaVaris Daniels, Kendall Moore (2014) and the late Greg Bryant’s suspension at this time last year after failing to make grades in summer school.
It appears Jones is set to follow the path walked by Golson and Russell.
While both were suspended from the University entirely – Jones remains enrolled – each worked to return to full eligibility.
“Notre Dame is a special place and playing football for the Irish is a privilege,” Jones posted on Twitter. “With this opportunity comes academic responsibility, and unfortunately, I don’t meet that responsibility. I love Notre Dame and everything about it. Obviously, I’m disappointed in myself, but I’m going to make the best of this situation. I’m going to remain a student at Notre Dame and work even harder. I’m going to grow from this. I’m going to be a better student, teammate, player and man. While I won’t be able to help my brothers on Saturdays, I’ll do whatever I can to help this team achieve its goal of winning a national championship.”
Jones was a five-star recruit on Scout coming out of Bishop Gorman and a player the Irish flipped from UCLA late in the process. He proved to be an instant impact athlete in South Bend, posting 13 catches for 190 yards while starting five games.
While starts at the skill positions don’t mean much in Kelly’s rotation-heavy offense, Jones featured in the game plan from the opening week and remained relatively consistent there.
Jones appeared set to start at the position vacated by Chris Brown and Corey Robinson, who retired from football this spring. At 244 pounds after summer drills, Jones also looked like the kind of mismatch Irish offense needed after losing its top three receivers from last year.
Now, Notre Dame must find new blood at both tight end and wide out. Durham Smythe, Nic Weishar and Tyler Luatua will all feature at tight end, with Luatua’s U-turn on transferring to BYU more relevant today than when it actually occurred. Receiver is a bigger question as Equanimeous St. Brown and Miles Boykin might be in line for extra work when fall camp opens on Saturday. St. Brown’s freshman season was ended by a shoulder injury while Boykin took a red-shirt.
Notre Dame likes to say “Next Man In” in moments like these.
Yet there’s not a next 6-foot-5, 244-pound athlete who can run like a receiver on the roster. And on top of that, it’s a statement the Irish program has had to repeat too often.