The last few weeks have been absolutely brutal for Notre Dame on the injury front. The Irish have suffered a rash of injuries that have ravaged the defensive depth chart and made filling out this week’s travel squad a bit challenging for Brian Kelly and his staff.
With all of the injuries, here is a run down of all of the recent injuries the 2013 Fighting Irish have suffered along with their most recent status for this weekend and beyond.
- Greg Bryant (RB) – Notre Dame had to shut down Braynt for the year after the freshman had knee surgery a few weeks back. Fellow freshman Tarean Folston has seized the opportunity with none of the upperclassmen establishing themselves as the firm #1 back.
- Christian Lombard (OG) - Lombard is out for the year after having back surgery recently. Freshman Steve Elmer has filled in for Lombard and played very well so far.
- Chris Watt (OG) – Watt missed the Navy game with a knee injury but is expected back on the field this week for the Irish. Connor Hanratty filled in for Watt this weekend and will do so again if need be.
- Daniel Smith (WR) – Smith was lost for the season during the Arizona State game. The freshman trio of Corey Robinson, Will Fuller, and James Onwualu have seen more reps with Smith lost. Onwualu specifically has been called upon to fill in for Smith’s blocking prowess.
- Louis Nix (NT) – Nix has suffered through knee tendinitis which caused him to miss the last few weeks. The condition will require surgery at some point but Notre Dame is hopeful to get him back this weekend in some capacity. If NIx can’t go this weekend, Notre Dame will be in trouble at the nose position since…
- Kona Schwenke (NT) - Injured this past weekend, Schwenke has already been ruled out for this weekend’s Pitt game making Nix’s return all that more important for the Irish. 5th year senior Tyler Stockton will be asked to play a larger role as well.
- Ishaq Williams (DE/OLB) – Hurt against Air Force two weeks ago, Williams is expected to be back against BYU and won’t play this weekend. Romeo Okwara has seen an increased workload in Williams absence.
- Sheldon Day (DE) - Day’s been very limited since suffering a high ankle sprain earlier this year. He returned to action but is’t quite back to 100% yet. Kelly said that he expects Day to play a larger role this week than last. Jarron Jones and Isaac Rochell having gotten a lot of reps with the injuries upfront and will see plenty of action again this weekend.
- Jarrett Grace (ILB) - Grace was lost for the season a few weeks back against Arizona State. Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese have seen increased work loads while Joe Schmidt and Kendall Moore have seen the field quite a bit as welll.
- Ben Councell (OLB) – Suffered a season ending ACL injury against Navy that will cost him not only the rest of is junior season but also limit him in the spring. Anthony Rabasa will be asked to play a larger role with Councell done for the season.
- Elijah Shumate (S) - Shumate has been battling through a hamstring injury that caused him to miss another game this weekend. No official word on Shumate’s availability for this weekend.
- Austin Collinsworth (S) – Kelly officially listed Collinsworth as questionable for this weekend after a MRI came back clean after he was nicked up against Navy. Eliar Hardy will continue to play more as he has been with Max Redfield in the mix as well.
All of these injuries would be bad enough on their own but when you also figure in the losses of Tony Springmann and Danny Spond from the summer and the Notre Dame defense is resembling a MASH unit more so than a deep defense we all envisioned the Irish field this year.
After this weekend’s game against Pitt Notre Dame will have a much needed bye week before BYU comes to town for Senior Day, but even with a week off to heal, the injuries are mounting for the Irish – especially on the defensive line. Any hope of winning out and having a chance at a BCS Bowl hinges on Notre Dame getting healthy up front and having Nix, Day, Schwenke, and Williams at least all ready for BYU and Stanford.
The silver lining here of course is all of the experience some key contributors for next season are receiving in the form of the on the job training as well as the contributions from some players who were on the verge of being overlooked and forgotten. Eliar Hary and Kendall Moore for instance weren’t expected to be big contributors but both have been solid the last couple weeks and will be called upon again this weekend.
Youngsters like Steve Elmer, Jarron Jones, Isaac Rochell, the freshmen wide receivers, and Connor Hanratty are all receiving valuable experience that will serve them well when they are asked to assume more responsibilities next year as well.
All of that, however, is secondary at this point with plenty left to play for in 2013 for Notre Dame. If the Irish can limp out of Pittsburgh without suffering any more key injuries and with a W, they will have an off week to heal up before trying to close out the season with two more wins and charge their way into the BCS Bowl conversation. Any more serious injuries or additional setbacks to the walking wounded already taking the practice field for the Irish this week though and Irish fans could be forced to schedule their holiday plans around an early bowl game this year.