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Football

Kelly discusses Crawford’s injury, adjustments and quarterback play

| Friday, August 31, 2018

Irish head coach Brian Kelly addressed the loss of senior cornerback Shaun Crawford to a season-ending ACL injury and the team’s strategy going forward during his Thursday press conference.

“Very disappointing,” Kelly said of Crawford’s injury during a morning practice on Tuesday. “We were in a one-on-one drill and he got caught up with a receiver. I’m sick about it.”

Crawford has been plagued by injuries throughout his career with the Irish, tearing his ACL in August of his freshman year only to tear his achilles a year later in the second game of the season against Nevada. He had an impressive offseason and all signs pointed to a healthy senior year where he could be a significant contributor at the nickel position.

Eddie Griesedieck | The Observer

Irish senior defensive back Shaun Crawford stands in the rain during Notre Dame’s 24-17 win over Navy on Nov. 18 at Notre Dame Stadium.

“Right knee, left knee, achilles —you’re heart is broken for a kid that’s worked so hard to get on the field and been set back by injury,” Kelly said. “It’s difficult for him but he’s handling it the best he can, given the circumstance.”

Kelly said Crawford will likely have surgery in the upcoming weeks after increasing his movement and strength to improve the recovery process. However, he will definitely be out for the season. In the meantime, Kelly is already focusing on new schemes to replace the void left by Crawford’s absence.

“[Senior safety] Nick Coleman will move into that position that he was playing, our light package,” Kelly said. “[Freshman defensive back] Houston Griffin will play there as well. We’ll use two players to take up the slack in that particular position.”

Kelly also said that despite making more plays as a cornerback, Coleman will remain in the safety rotation.

He said that the squad will likely try a variety of options in the secondary, including junior Jalen Elliot, senior Nicco Fertitta and junior Alohi Gilman. Additionally, Kelly is optimistic about the development of junior cornerback Donte Vaughn and expects him to make significant contributions this season.

“[He’s] a long corner who has a real good ability to get his hands on footballs,” Kelly said. “If we go back to his freshman year against Miami he had two or three pass break-ups in that game and not really knowing what he was doing.”

Kelly also said the offense, led by senior quarterback Brandon Wimbush, has been paying close attention to detail as they prepare to face Michigan.

“We’ve been working on the higher completion throws that [Wimbush] needs to be more effective with and he’s done a nice job,” Kelly said. “He needs Phil Mickelson short game.

“He’s got to complete some of the easier, high completion kind of throws that are important to move the chains. He’s worked diligently on them. … He’s gonna continuously get better throughout the year.”

In addition to Wimbush’s improvements, Kelly said he is pleased with the progress made by new offensive line coach Jeff Quinn in forming a strong rebuild after losing two first round NFL draft picks from last season in Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson.

“That whole unit has responded well to Jeff,” Kelly said. “The tone has been great in terms of the camaraderie among the group. And Jeff is fortunate that he’s got a veteran group with guys who have played a lot of football too, so there’s good carry over there with some good leadership and experience.”

The Irish will receive their first test this Saturday against a skilled Michigan team. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m.

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