Notre Dame prepares for Arizona State without Joe Schmidt
Mike Monaco | Tuesday, November 4, 2014
With Irish senior linebacker and leading tackler Joe Schmidt sidelined for the season with a fractured and dislocated ankle, the already-green Notre Dame defense will be even younger Saturday when it squares off with No. 11 Arizona State.
Irish freshman linebacker Nyles Morgan is listed as the starter in place of Schmidt on this week’s unofficial depth chart.
“I think everybody will pick up the slack there for the loss of Joe,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday. “I think we’ll make it so Nyles doesn’t have to do too much. But he’s going to have to do something as well.”
Schmidt, who handled a bulk of the communication and play-calling responsibilities from the “Mike” linebacker position, suffered the injury in the third quarter of Notre Dame’s 49-39 victory over Navy on Saturday in Landover, Maryland, at FedEx Field. Through eight games, Schmidt leads Notre Dame (7-1) with 65 tackles. Kelly said the Irish will experiment Tuesday and Wednesday with different communication methods.
“Nyles has been here 12 weeks. He’s had 12 weeks of coaching, and [defensive coordinator Brian] VanGorder is extremely confident in Nyles’ ability to go in there and play,” Kelly said. “His traits are pretty clear. He’s extremely athletic. We’ll put him in a position where he can help us win a football game on Saturday.”
Kelly said Morgan has been “unbelievable” with his preparation this season.
“We’ve been so hard on him,” Kelly said. “I think we said to him about three weeks in, you’re either gonna quit, or you’re gonna be one of the best players that’s ever played here because we’re hard on him. I mean, really hard on him.”
Kelly said after being injured and after alerting his parents and determining a plan for surgery, Schmidt’s next focus was working with Morgan.
“That’s just Joe, he’ll absolutely be working with us as soon as we get him out of surgery and get him up and around,” Kelly said. It’ll be a coach on the field for us.”
A win on Saturday against the Sun Devils (7-1, 5-1 Pac-12) would give the Irish its first win against a team still ranked in the top 25. Notre Dame, though, is one of three teams in the nation to have never played an FCS program.
“I think you’d take [our first eight games] versus other teams that have really had glorified byes in their schedule,” Kelly said.
The Irish were ranked 10th in the initial rankings by the College Football Playoff selection committee Tuesday. The next batch of rankings will be released Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m.
“We go into this putting together the toughest schedule in the country,” Kelly said. “Nobody else does it that way. They put on teams that are clearly glorified byes. We don’t operate that way. That to me is strength of schedule in terms of the way we put it together. If it’s not evaluated that way, there’s nothing I can do about it.”
Injury and Academic Updates
Sophomore linebacker James Onwualu (concussion testing) was cleared for practice Monday, Kelly said, and junior defensive lineman Jarron Jones (ankle sprain) responded well to treatment and will be “full-go” at practice Tuesday.
Junior defensive lineman Sheldon Day (brachial plexus) is cleared for practice, Kelly said, and senior linebacker Ben Councell (slight calf sprain) and graduate student cornerback Cody Riggs (foot strain) will practice Tuesday.
Senior safety Eilar Hardy, who had been withheld from practice and competition during the academic investigation, has not been fully cleared, Kelly said.
“We’re hoping to get that this week,” Kelly said of the clearance. “We’ll see how that pans out. If we can get clearance on Eilar, he would be prepared and ready this week to play.”