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Kelly discusses injuries, defense

| Monday, November 3, 2014

Irish coach Brian Kelly spoke Sunday about Notre Dame injuries and their impact on the team, most notably senior starting linebacker Joe Schmidt’s injury, in his weekly teleconference.

Schmidt went out in the third quarter of Notre Dame’s 49-39 victory over Navy on Saturday with an ankle injury. After x-rays, Schmidt was found to have a fractured and dislocated ankle. Schmidt will have surgery today and will be out for the remainder of the season, Kelly said, and the team will have to step up to fill the void left by the defensive play-caller.

Freshman linebacker Nyles Morgan filled Schmidt’s spot Saturday and will be the starter moving forward at middle linebacker, but the play calling will most likely fall to someone else on the defense.

“[Middle linebacker] has a leadership component relative to understand all of the fronts and adjustments and clearly getting lined up,” Kelly said. “So the complexities of that position generally take on a leadership role. … We obviously felt good about putting all that on Joe’s plate. We’re not able to do that with Nyles.”

Other injuries included sophomores linebacker James Onwualu and running back Greg Bryant. Onwualu collided with junior defensive lineman Sheldon Day in the fourth quarter. Onwualu did not pass concussion protocols and did not return to the game. Brian Kelly said Onwualu was making progress on Sunday to get back to playing.

“He passed his first set of concussion protocol, so he looks to be able to get back to practice here,” Kelly said.

Bryant did not make appearance in Saturday’s game. Kelly said Bryant is working through a nagging ankle injury.

“Greg Bryant was not 100 percent, still fighting through that ankle,” Kelly said.

Senior linebacker Joe Schmidt readies for the snap during the Oct. 18 loss to Florida State. Schmidt suffered a season-ending injury Saturday against Navy.Zachary Llorens
Senior linebacker Joe Schmidt readies for the snap during the Oct. 18 loss to Florida State. Schmidt suffered a season-ending injury Saturday against Navy.


Despite the injuries, Kelly said he was pleased with “so many things” of what he saw from younger players, like freshmen Greer Martini, Drue Tranquill and Morgan stepping up on defense.

During the fourth quarter, almost half of Notre Dame’s defense on the field was freshmen. Kelly said the young group had some crucial moments that it can use moving forward.

“We had a big fourth-down stop; they took the ball away,” Kelly said. “There were five freshmen on the field when those things happened, and you just can’t duplicate that stuff. That’s all beneficial, and then all of the mistakes that were made are all teachable things that they can carry over going into Arizona State.”

Navy’s triple-option offense presented a schematical challenge to the Irish on defense. Kelly said the Irish rose to the occasion.

“Navy is a difficult team to defend,” Kelly said. “We went in there with a plan, and I thought we were efficient on first down.They hurt us with the quarterback scrambling. Again, they’re a difficult team to defend, and our kids fought their butts off.”

After all of the planning for Navy’s offense, Kelly said Notre Dame will not have any trouble transitioning back to its normal defensive scheme.

“I think [the transition] is already happening,” Kelly said. “I think when we were on the plane, the guys were already thinking about getting back to some base calls. … It will be a quick transition and one that we … did some things to keep our calls active, knowing that it was going to be a quick transition.”

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