It’s still not clear if the three Notre Dame players who suffered concussions against Miami will be back for Navy, although linebacker Greer Martini and right guard Colin McGovern are moving in that direction.
During his Tuesday press conference head coach Brian Kelly said Martini and McGovern had passed conditioning tests Monday that will allow them to practice today in non-contact roles. Defensive tackle Daniel Cage will undergo his conditioning test today, which means he’s a step behind his teammates after all three were knocked out of the Miami game with concussions.
“We've made progress yesterday,” Kelly said. “Greer Martini will go through practice today in a non-contact. So he'll be able to go through our 11-on-11, but we'll put a red jersey on him so he doesn't contact. But he'll be able to get through all of our reads and make sure he gets a full day of practice from that standpoint.
“Colin McGovern will do the same. He'll go through practice. He passed through his cardiovascular test yesterday, and he'll go through a similar protocol where he'll get into a lot of our non-contact type of drill work today.”
Martini’s return would be significant for Notre Dame’s defense against the triple option considering his effectiveness at stopping it last season. The junior posted 17 total tackles against Georgia Tech and Navy last season. He made 18 tackles in Notre Dame’s other 11 games combined.
Against Miami, Martini went down after just three defensive snaps.
McGovern lasted about as long before being replaced by Hunter Bivin. The concussion was at least the offensive lineman’s second in the past year.
In the past, most players who have suffered a concussion in-season have missed at least one game to recover. That list includes Torii Hunter Jr. after the Texas game, Tyler Luatua last season (two games missed) and Everett Golson during the 2012 season. James Onwualu missed the Pinstripe Bowl with a concussion.
Corey Robinson retired from football after a concussion early during spring practice that lingered for more than a month. Robinson had suffered multiple concussions in that academic year.
It’s not clear how Notre Dame would replace Martini or Cage if they can’t go, based on Navy’s triple option. Last year the Irish played some 4-4 fronts against the Mids, which could lead to a linebacker group of Nyles Morgan, James Onwualu, Te’von Coney and Drue Tranquill, who could walk up to outside linebacker.
If Cage can’t go the pressure will be on Jarron Jones to extend his mid-season surge with deep reserve Pete Mokwuah picking up a few reps too. Kelly pushed back against the notion Jones isn’t built to play the option at 6-foot-6, 315 pounds after his spectacular six tackles-for-loss performance against Miami.
“(The option) had better be a strength of his,” Kelly said. “I mean, he's got all the NFL teams now interested in him. So I mean, I don't think he wants bad NFL film now. I hope he's listening.
“If he's explosive and he gets off the ball, there's really no worries about how to play this game up front. You just need to be explosive. We're not going to get into a read-react thing with him. He's a big fella, and he makes all his plays being explosive. So the best way not to get cut is to blow your guy up. That's kind of what we're talking to Jarron about, and he kind of likes that right now.”