Notre Dame’s Spring Injury Update
Following the first day of spring drills this Saturday, head coach Brian Kelly revealed several players who will not partake in these 15 practices, or at least most of them, because of surgery performed.
• Junior All-American safety Kyle Hamilton had ankle issues much of last year, starting with the opener against Duke, and will be out of commission for the 15 spring sessions after having undergone offseason surgery.
“He’s making great strides, and then we’ve got work to do,” Kelly said. “… He knows he’s got a lot to improve on and we’ll get to work on that once he’s healthy. He’s in our rehab program, spent a lot of time with our trainers. I know he’s doing extra work with Coach [Chris] O’Leary and Coach [Marcus] Freeman to pick up our defense, but he’s got some work to do and he knows it.
“We’ve tried to put him in a leadership position as well. He has a SWAT team, so we’re trying to utilize all the things he can give us right now while he is in fact injured.”
Hamilton’s absence leaves more reps among 2020 regulars DJ Brown (242 snaps), Houston Griffith (215), now entering their senior years, as well as juniors KJ Wallace (30) and Litchfield Ajavon, among others.
Ohio State graduate transfer Isaiah Pryor also has been listed as a safety, although Kelly referred to him as a rover.
• Defensively, junior nose tackle Jacob Lacey will be out because of a shoulder injury that perhaps slowed him last season. As a 2019 freshman, Lacey’s 247 snaps were second only to Hamilton while displaying advanced strength for his age.
Last year as a sophomore the snap count fell to 149 while playing behind returning starter and fifth-year senior Kurt Hinish and, at times, classmate Howard Cross III.
• Senior rover Paul Moala tore his Achilles in the Oct. 10 win versus Florida State. Kelly has referred to his progress as “fabulous.”
“I think he’s got a chance to help us here in the spring,” Kelly said. “… There is a chance he can be in seven-on-seven and doing some things here in the latter half of spring ball. He’s made great progress with the Achilles. He worked his tail off to come back.”
• On offense, the prime setback is two-year starting center and senior-to-be Jarrett Patterson, who had Lisfranc surgery in November prior to the Nov. 27 game at North Carolina. He will not be available while junior Zeke Correll, who started twice last season, takes over the snapping duties.
• On offense, junior quarterback Brendon Clark will not partake in the competition to replace graduated three-year starter Ian Book.
Clark was shut down from action in December because of what Kelly described as a “cranky knee” dating back to the high school days, and he had surgery on it prior to the College Football Playoff matchup in the Rose Bowl versus eventual national champ Alabama Jan. 1.
Kelly anticipates the prime competition for the starting role will be between Wisconsin graduate transfer Jack Coan and sophomore Drew Pyne, while Clark continues his rehab through the summer.
“He’s probably going to be able to throw a little bit more, but in terms of being able to get into the mix …it’s going to be difficult for him to do that relative to the time table,” Kelly said.
• Senior wideout Kevin Austin Jr.’s road to the playing field continues to be sidetracked.
He sat out all of 2019 because of an undisclosed suspension imposed by the university. Last year he had surgery in late July for a foot injury, and after briefly playing against Florida State (three) and Louisville (22), he re-injured it, requiring a second surgery in the latter part of October.
“I think it’s probably unlikely we’ll see Kevin Austin [this spring],” Kelly said.
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