Notre Dame's Jafar Armstrong Sidelined At Least A Month
After losing two starters — tight end Cole Kmet and wide receiver Michael Young — to collarbone surgery during August camp, Notre Dame's offense has suffered another setback with the temporary shelving of a third junior starter, running back Jafar Armstrong.
Multiple sources confirmed to Blueandgold.com’s Bryan Driskell on Wednesday that Armstrong could “miss at least a month” following a groin injury during the opening possession at Louisville on Monday night. The Athletic originally reported the injury.
Nothing official has been reported by Notre Dame, and head coach Brian Kelly’s next scheduled availability to media will not be until next Monday because of the bye the Fighting Irish have this Saturday.
Armstrong had his first touch versus Louisville on the third play, a five-yard run, and then followed with a 16-yard reception and another five-yard run on the ensuing two plays. At that point he left the field in pain and did not return to action. On Sunday, Kelly confirmed that Armstrong had discomfort with a soft-tissue injury in the groin/abdominal region, and an MRI was scheduled later that day.
“He’s had a sports hernia injury that was repaired in high school, so we feel good that there was no structural damage,” Kelly said.
If one month is the best case for a return, that could see Armstrong back sometime by the consecutive home games versus Bowling Green (Oct. 5) and USC (Oct. 12) — or buy more time to recover with the Oct. 19 bye prior to the trip to Michigan (Oct. 26).
Minus Armstrong, senior Tony Jones Jr. was the workhorse in the backfield against the Cardinals with 15 carries for 110 yards and a touchdown while taking 41 of the 65 snaps on offense, per Pro Football Focus.
Sophomore Jahmir Smith, primarily a short-yardage back, was in for 20 snaps and carried eight times for 24 yards, scoring the first touchdown of the season on a three-yard run and following later with a one-yard tally.
Sophomore C’Bo Flemister was inserted during the final series for four snaps and picked up five yards on three carries. Freshman Kyren Williams, who enrolled in January and had a strong August camp, appeared only one play, but a dropped pass did not get him back into action.
The loss of Armstrong hurts schematically because of his ability to split out as a receiver, the position he was recruited to play before attrition in the backfield led to his shift to running back in the spring of 2018. He and Jones started against Louisville in a two-back formation, with the ability to split out.
Last season Armstrong rushed for 383 yards, 5.3 yards per carry and seven touchdowns, plus caught 14 passes for 159 yards. However, most of those stats — 245 yards rushing — came in the first four games when senior running back Dexter Williams was suspended.
A knee infection sidelined Armstrong after the fourth game, and he missed the next three contests. He never was quite the same the rest of the season. In the final three games, including the College Football Playoff versus Clemson, Armstrong totaled only five carries for 24 yards and had two catches for eight yards.
As for Kmet and Young, Kelly indicated both are progressing well, especially Kmet, whose injury occurred Aug. 8. Kmet is scheduled for a CAT scan this week that will dictate whether he can be cleared for full go in practice next week in preparation for the Sept. 14 New Mexico game.
Young will have an X-ray later this week as well that will provide information on whether he can take the next step of running and catching the football. His injury occurred Aug. 17.
“He's about a week or so behind Cole Kmet in terms of that process,” Kelly said.