Notre Dame doesn’t have much time to bask in the glow of the beatdown they placed on USC over the weekend. The Irish host #14 NC State for the Wolf Pack’s first ever trip to Notre Dame this weekend. Notre Dame is expecting to have two players who missed the USC game back in action when NC State rolls into town. According to Brian Kelly, both Greer Martini and Dexter Williams are expected back this weekend.
“Greer Martini is cleared to practice on Tuesday. We expect him back,” Kelly told the media on Sunday. Martini got hurt during the bye week and sat out the USC game. In his absence, Tevon Coney filled in and had himself a game and a half. Even with Coney’s huge game against the Trojans though, having Martini back is a big boost as Notre Dame gets ready for the gauntlet portion of its schedule over the next five weeks.
Kelly praised Coney for his play against USC on Sunday, “He played his butt off. He was outstanding,” he said. “And not only obviously sets up the biggest play of the game, which was the strip early on in the game, which sets us up in great field position — he had two and a half tackles on special teams.”
Dexter Williams on the other hand has missed the last three games for the Irish. Brian Kelly expects him back this weekend too though. “We made a conscious decision not to play Dexter until he got back to 100 percent. We think he’s going to be 100 percent for the North Carolina State game,” Kelly said.
In past seasons Notre Dame might have been tempted to play a back like Williams before getting fully to 100% but with Josh Adams, Tony Jones, and Deon McIntosh all playing so well, they were afforded that luxury. Even with that depth though, the return of Williams is a welcome sight. “We’ve got a lot of big football games. We’re going to need Dexter,” Kelly said. “So expect to see him play a big role in what we do down the stretch here.”
While Josh Adams has been racking up video game style numbers this season, Williams is a dynamic back who has scored four touchdowns on just 20 carries in limited action this season. Getting him back in the fold gives Notre Dame another running back who can take any carry the distance.
Other than Martini and Williams, Notre Dame was without Cameron Smith last weekend due to a hamstring injury suffered in practice but he too is expected back this weekend. The Irish managed to navigate their blowout of USC without suffering anything else other than a few minor bumps and bruises.
Getting back to full strength this weekend is big for Notre Dame as they could very well be facing their toughest challenge standing between them and a potential playoff bit. Miami is sporting a better record than NC State right now but the Wolf Pack have been a more impressive team than the Hurricanes who have been largely surviving each week.