Kelly says Crawford out for the season, Hunter Jr. will be ready for Michigan State
Benjamin Padanilam | Tuesday, September 13, 2016
No. 18 Notre Dame bounced back in a big way Saturday with a 39-10 win over Nevada. But in the victory, the Irish suffered a tough loss when sophomore cornerback Shaun Crawford tore his Achilles tendon, effectively bringing an end to his season, Irish head coach Brian Kelly confirmed Sunday.
“Shaun is a unique player [with] great ball skills — probably had a chance to compete, if we decided, to be one of our starting receivers,” Kelly said. “He’s got great instincts for the game, and just, again, a guy that really has a great sense and feel for the game. And that’s hard to teach a lot of that, so to lose that is pretty significant.”
Crawford’s injury was not the only health update in regards to the secondary that Kelly discussed in his Sunday afternoon teleconference. He also elaborated on the progress of junior cornerback Nick Watkins, indicating his future was contingent on the results of an X-ray he is set to get next week on his fractured left humerus. If the injury has not made the desired level of progress by then, Kelly said the team will likely medically redshirt Watkins.
“He’ll get an X-ray next week to see what type of bone growth he has in that forearm,” Kelly said. “And then that will determine where we are relative to being able to play him this year or not.”
Fortunately for the Irish (1-1), not all of the injury updates were negative. Kelly said junior safety Drue Tranquill did not suffer a concussion during Saturday’s win but rather had a stinger to his neck which was almost fully healed by Sunday.
“[Tranquill] didn’t have a concussion, nor did he have concussion-like symptoms,” Kelly said. “More of a neck injury. He was clean and felt good [Sunday] morning.”
Moreover, captain and senior receiver Torii Hunter Jr. has progressed to the final stage of the team’s concussion protocol, meaning he will participate in all drills as part of a controlled practice setting Tuesday, according to Kelly.
With the injury to Crawford, Kelly said freshman cornerback Donte Vaughn will now become a rotational figure in a developing secondary.
“… Donte Vaughn, now, is in the mix, with the injury to Crawford,” Kelly said. “He now becomes a guy in the rotation.”
Overall, Kelly said he felt the best word to describe the secondary’s performance during Saturday’s win was “improvement.”
“[Senior] Cole Luke played outstanding,” he said. “I thought when [sophomore] Nick Coleman came in, he showed great improvement. I think the safeties played much better, so I would say that it’s an improving group.”
Notre Dame’s head coach also said he was pleased with some of the development he saw from guys in the front seven. At linebacker, he was particularly pleased with the play of sophomore Te’von Coney.
“[He] played very well — had a chance to have a great game,” Kelly said. “[He] missed a couple of tackles, [but] played physical. … But in his first real start, we were pleased with his performance.”
And, for the defensive line, Kelly praised the play of Daniel Cage. He said he’s been looking for more consistency out of the junior, and after two good weeks of practice from him, Kelly said he was outstanding Saturday and continues to impress this year.
“This was the best game he’s played since he’s been at Notre Dame,” Kelly said of Cage’s play Saturday.
On to the Spartans
Now, the Irish are ready to put Nevada behind them and focus ahead on its showdown with No. 12 Michigan State. The Spartans (1-0) are coming off of a bye week last week, which Kelly said gives the team less film to work with as they prep for Saturday.
“Well, I mean the only thing is that you don’t have a lot of film on them from this week. You’ve got one game,” Kelly said. “So we’ll have to look at a little more film. But generally, in a bye week situation, you’re just, you’re really just trying to rely on what you’ve seen and who they are and have been in the past.
“We’ve played Michigan State enough that we have a pretty good understanding of their identity and who they want to be.”
And the Irish expect nothing less than a physical game that will be won in the trenches.
“I have a lot of respect for [Michigan State head coach] Mark [Dantonio], and Coach Dantonio is always going to present a very physical team in all three phases,” Kelly said. “Our games each and every year that we have played have been close, hard fought. And we expect the same again this year.”