Notre Dame’s already thin depth at cornerback reportedly suffered a crushing blow on Monday when junior corner Lo Wood suffered was is being called a season ending Achilles injury leaving the Irish precariously short on numbers at the critical position.
Lo Wood was considered a major question mark as a starting corner heading into the season but has been one of the most pleasant surprises in fall camp up until this point receiving high praise from head coach Brian Kelly, defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, and secondary coach Kerry Cooks along the way.
With Wood lost for the season, Notre Dame will be forced to start someone opposite converted wide receiver Bennett Jackson that has little or no experience. The candidates right now are sophomores Josh Atkinson and Jalen Brown and freshmen Elijah Shumate, a converted safety, and Keivarae Russell, a converted running back.
Of the four candidates vying for the starting position, only Atkinson has seen the field at this point and his experience includes all of two collegiate tackles.
On the surface, Notre Dame’s first opponent of the season would appear to be a great way to break in a new starter lacking experience at the position, but at the same time, facing an offense such as Navy’s requires a lot of discipline and almost requires more experience than a traditional offense to defend. With that in mind, look for the Midshipmen to attack the edge of the Irish defense and run right at whoever ends up starting opposite Jackson.
Given the nature of Navy’s offense, it is also very possible that whoever starts the season in Wood’s now vacated position may not be the long term answer for the Irish at corner. I could see the Irish throwing Shumate out there against Navy given his size and physicality as opposed to say Atkinson who is faster but not as big. When the Irish face a more traditional offense in week two, Purdue, it would also not be surprising to see Diaco and Kelly tap Atkinson to be there man given his speed and brief experience.
At the same time, throwing a true freshman onto the field against an offense such as Navy’s isn’t necessarily an ideal situation. So the bottom line here is that Notre Dame just suffered it’s first major injury for 2012 at a position they could ill afford to have injuries this season.
Wood’s injury throws the recruiting shortcomings of last year back into the spotlight. Had Notre Dame been able to hold on to Ronald Darby before he flipped to Florida State or kept Tee Shepard on campus after he enrolled early, the Irish would still be in pretty solid shape at corner since both were expected to challenge for a starting position this fall. With neither on campus, Notre Dame faces the real possibility of started two corners who started their careers at other positions and have little or no experience playing the position on this, or any level.
Achilles injuries generally take a while to fully recover from – especially at a position like cornerback which requires so much lateral quickness and quick cuts. Notre Dame already has cornerback commitments from Devin Butler and Rashad Kinlaw and was expected to continue to recruit the position. Look for that to definitely be the case now as Wood’s status for 2013 could be uncertain as well as most athletes admit it takes a full year back in action to fully recover from an ACL injury.