Return of Ishaq Williams to Notre Dame in Doubt

Ishaq Williams - Notre Dame OLB/DE
Oklahoma Sooners running back Damien Williams (26) is pursued by Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Ishaq Williams (11) at Notre Dame Stadium. Oklahoma defeats Notre Dame 35-21. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

While Notre Dame got some very encouraging news on Tuesday that Jarrett Grace would be returning to the playing field after a long absence following his recovery from a broken tibia and fibula, they got some discouraging news regarding the potential return of academic investigation exilee Ishaq Williams.

“Right now he’s got to get re‑enrolled into school.  He’s got to re‑apply, go through that process.  There’s some uncertainties there,” Brian Kelly said of the potential return of Williams for a 5th year after being suspended from the University following the academic investigation at Notre Dame last summer.

With Williams’ return to Notre Dame still in doubt, the would be senior has been working.  “He’s working right now.  He’s trying to make some money,” said Kelly.  “He’s trying to do the things necessary to have a PlanB if he needs one.  He’s trying to make some money,” he added.

Even if Williams is able to make his “plan A” a reality and get readmitted into Notre Dame, Kelly said on Tuesday that at this point he cannot guarantee the former 5-star recruit a scholarship.  “I can’t guarantee him a spot, no.  There are other factors involved.”

Notre Dame is facing a numbers crunch following a nearly capacity recruiting class and a large pool of potential 5th year seniors.  Matt Hegarty’s decision to transfer for his 5th season opened one potential spot and on Tuesday Kelly said that Ben Councell has decided not to pursue a 5th year of football anywhere which takes away some more competition for a scholarships, but thanks to the large recruiting classes Kelly has brought in the past few years, Notre Dame is finally pushing up against the limit of 85 scholarships.

Kelly didn’t give any details regarding the hurdles that Williams has to clear yet, but it has been rumored for some time now that Williams’s potential return was not nearly as clear cut as the potential return of Keivarae Russell’s which at least appears to be more of a formality at this point compared to Williams’s.

If Williams is able to return to Notre Dame he could give Notre Dame the pass rush that it has been missing, but with his return in doubt, Brian Vangorder and new defensive line coach Keith Gilmore could be forced to look elsewhere for an edge pass rusher this spring and fall.

Williams, along with Keivarae Russell, Davaris Daniels, and Kendall Moore missed the entire 2014 season following the academic investigation that started last August and drug out into the season.  Eilar Hardy was also included in the investigation, but he returned towards the end of the season and decided to transfer for his 5th season.

Should Williams not be able to return for his senior season, it would be and end to what would have to be considered one of the most disappointing ends to 5-star recruit career in recent memory.  Williams came to Notre Dame following the now legendary recruiting tale of Bob Diaco sitting outside Williams’s Brooklyn house to prevent a visit to Penn State that resulted in the early enrollment of Williams at Notre Dame.

After three seasons in which Williams showed some promise, but not much consistency, a lot was expected from him in 2014 for his senior season before his dismissal.  If he is unable to return, his career will end with just 1.0 career sack and 6 tackles for loss – totals many thought the former US Army All-American would eclipse during his freshman season.

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