Notre Dame’s linebacking depth, something Brian Kelly touted at his first press conference of fall camp, has taken a major hit already this season with three players from the two-deep lost for the season already. As a result, Kelly announced on Thursday that wide receiver Xavier Watts has been moved to ROVER and will see the field this weekend on defense.
Brian Kelly confirmed weeks ago that Marist Liufau was lost for the season in training camp. In the opener, Paul Moala was lost for the season with a torn Achilles. Shayne Simon joined Moala and Liufau on the mash unit at linebacker with a torn labrum in the opener ending his season as well. One potential breakout starter and two key depth pieces all out for the season before the second game of the year.
Kelly surprised many with the news that Watts was moving to ROVER. There had been some talk of him potentially playing safety during the recruiting process, but after learning that senior Lawrence Keys III had decided to sit out the rest of 2021 to get his degree before deciding on the next course of action, many felt Watt would see the field at receiver. Instead, Kelly said Watt is not only moving to defense, but he will get snaps at ROVER on Saturday against Toledo.
Moving Watt to ROVER allows Notre Dame to cross-train ROVER Jack Kiser at WILL where he could provide some additional depth behind JD Bertrand with freshman Prince Kollie the listed backup at the position. Kollie started his first fall camp at ROVER.
All of these moving parts are certainly not an ideal situation for the linebacker or wide receiver room for Notre Dame, but that is, unfortunately, the reality of the situation at the moment. We’ll dive into this on the next podcast (recording tonight) and have more thoughts on the depth implications moving forward.