Notre Dame is back in action on Saturday after a two-week hiatus following the outbreak of COVID-19 within the program. The Irish should have most of their roster available to them by kick-off Saturday night, including the return of a healthy Kevin Austin – their presumed WR1 – who missed the first two games following foot surgery.
Notre Dame fans have been waiting a long time to see what Kevin Austin can do. We got glimpses of his skill in 2018 as a true freshman but then didn’t see anything out of the talented receiver in 2019 during his suspension that was never acknowledged publicly. He returns to action this weekend, and fans might have to wait just a bit longer to see his full impact on the Irish passing game.
When asked how much action Austin could receive in his first game since 2018, Brian Kelly told reporters that he could play 15-20 snaps on Monday. Hopefully, that’s enough to get a glimpse of what Austin can bring to the table after the Irish passing game sputtered through the first two games.
Most of Austin’s expectations have come from practice reports and comments made by players last year of Austin terrorizing the Notre Dame defense from the scout team while he sat out the season due to that suspension. To date, he has just fice catches for 90 yards and no touchdowns on his resume. He should add to that on Saturday.
Notre Dame’s wide receiving corps as a whole has been banged up through two games. Braden Lenzy missed the opener with a hammy, Northwestern grad-transfer Bennett Skowronek has only played a half of football with his own hamstring injury, and Lawrence Keys was unavailable for the South Florida game along with several other players that were announced just before kickoff.
We may get to see some snaps on Saturday with the full, starting wide receiver alignment for the first time this year. With Florida State’s porous pass defense in town, it’s a perfect time to work out any kinks that might still be there from a timing perspective before the schedule toughens up in late October and early November.
Austin might not light the world on fire if he only gets 15-25 snaps, but it would be shocking if he didn’t have some targets come his way pretty much immediately upon entering the game. If we Austin haul in three passes for 40+ yards, that’d be a solid first game back given his time off.
Next week against Louisville is a more realistic timeframe for him to see that snap count increase towards starter’s level. That would give him two full games fully integrated into the lineup before Clemson.