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Ragone still contributing, sixth year possible

Sep 29, 2011, 11:45 AM EDT

Mike Ragone

The Irish have done a good job of staying healthy these first four games. Unfortunately, one big exception is fifth-year tight end Mike Ragone, who tore his ACL against Michigan and was lost for the year.

Ragone’s had three major knee injuries dating back to his senior year in high school, a snake-bit career that likely robbed some big stats and offensive production from his time at Notre Dame.

Brought back by head coach Brian Kelly for a fifth year to work as a second tight end and to provide some might in the running game, Ragone’s injury weakens the Irish at the point-of-attack. What it doesn’t do is rob the Irish of his veteran presence, a real testament to Ragone’s character. Ragone made the travel squad against Pitt, and even put off major knee surgery to stay with the team.

“Mike has really been a great mentor to those young tight ends,” Kelly said after practice. “You got three really inexperienced tight ends. He’s been great. He rooms with them, he spends a lot of extra time with those guys. “He’s been a coach for us. He’s at every single practice, he’s put off surgery just to be with the guys. He’s going to get it done, but he’s put it off because he’s so much wanting to be part of what we’re doing.”

When people were speculating who Kelly and his staff would bring back for a fifth year last offseason, Ragone was one of those guys on the bubble, a supporting cast member who didn’t profile to start over Tyler Eifert. But Kelly brought him back, and he worked almost exclusively as a traditional tight end, adding a physical blocker to the run game while allowing Eifert to create mismatches out in space.

With Ragone out, the Irish will rely on Eifert, a “work in progress” blocker, according to tight ends coach Mike Denbrock, and sophomore Alex Welch and freshman Ben Koyack. Junior Jake Golic will also work into the mix, recently back from a broken arm. But Kelly values Ragone’s contributions to the offense so much, that he’ll consider bringing him back for a sixth year — something the NCAA should approve with Ragone’s two seasons missed due to major injuries.

A sixth year will likely come down to Irish recruiting class numbers and who Kelly and company decide to bring back for fifth years. (Some very interesting decisions are on the horizon.) But just the fact that Kelly is considering Ragone’s return shows a lot about a player that’s career highlights might have been sparse.

While there’s a chance that Ragone has played his final snap for the Irish, Kelly and Denbrock still plan to get major contributions out of the veteran as the season rolls on.

  1. brendanunderscoreg - Sep 29, 2011 at 12:20 PM

    Screw numbers. I want this guy back.

    • 808raiderinparadise - Sep 29, 2011 at 1:57 PM

      LoL. He can go move on with his life. a 3 knee surgery, 6th year roster taking “sad/poor guy story” is not what we need. he has done his duty admirably but this program needs to wisely use roster spots to give Kelly HIS recruits that he wants to fine tune the offense and defense. bye, bye.

      • 808raiderinparadise - Sep 29, 2011 at 6:58 PM

        everyone that gave thumbs down to my comment apparently wants to lose emabrassingly to the TULSAS of the world and NAVYS so this scrub can have one more year of what? 12 catches? couple key blocks? We need Kelly to have full reigns of the team and rosters and scholarships. this guy has no value in BCS or national championship run. I dont get why some ND fans are too nice all the time, if you want to compete, you have otobe practical. Like the say its a 40 year commitment, not a 4 year (or 6 yr) commitment. He has a great education to use in the workforce. 3 knee surgeries? 3 !!!!!???? He is done. give it up. maybe its a catholic thing about forgiveness lol …. GO ND!!!!

  2. goldnd - Sep 29, 2011 at 12:29 PM

    If he’s serious about coming back, he would need surgery now.

  3. bernhtp - Sep 29, 2011 at 1:02 PM

    You have to love this kid and feel really sorry about his misfortune He’s a great athlete and could certainly contribute in another season, but after five years in college and three major knee injuries, it just seems that he should move on with his life.

  4. joeblk10 - Sep 29, 2011 at 1:40 PM

    If by “move on with your life” you mean not taking advantage of another free year of education at Notre Dame if Kelly wants him back then good thing its not your decision. Not sure where he is at in his education but with another year could possible get his graduates degree while contributing to the team as well… sounds like a no brainer to me.

    • bernhtp - Sep 29, 2011 at 2:10 PM

      I’m certainly not saying that there are no benefits to staying, but that there are difficult trade-offs. It means Mike being cognizant of the apparent fact that his knees are unusually prone to repeated injury, that there is a risk of permanent injury, and of needing to honestly weigh the value of more year in school relative to embarking on other opportunities. This is anything but a “no brainer.”

      Elite athletes like Mike who have spent their entire lives focused on their sport – their dream – understandably have a difficult time objectively evaluating such deeply emotional issues. But thankfully for Mike, he’s at a good place where I trust he will receive good advice and guidance that is focused on his long term good.

      On a related note, there is a wonderful movie called Pelada that is made by a former Notre Dame soccer player and his then girlfriend from Duke. It is a documentary about pickup soccer around the world on one level, but on a deeper level it is about what one does with the rest of your life when your life as you’ve known it is suddenly over. It will make you laugh and cry. Everyone I know that has seen it loved it. Highly recommended.

    • 808raiderinparadise - Sep 29, 2011 at 7:04 PM

      THE FOOTBALL TEAM AND EDUCATION are SEPERATE …. so your saying let a guy take a roster spot with horrible knees that prob wont play a down so he can have a free extra year of education? he has had that for 5 years already. but what about the kid tryin to get an acadmic scholarship to ND and gets denied cuz Ragone should get another chance? thats awful. 1 scholarship and 1 roster spot taken over a gimp?

  5. barneysbullet - Sep 29, 2011 at 7:24 PM


    I’m sure we agree with you with our minds, but the thumbs down might be coming because our hearts are asking for just a tiny bit of empathy… But like I said, I’m sure we agree with our minds.

  6. waydomer - Sep 30, 2011 at 7:21 AM

    Lets let the coach, doctors, and Mike, who have real knowledge about the situation, prognosis and risks make the decision instead of the idiots on this board.

  7. maugeri55 - Oct 3, 2011 at 10:37 AM

    I have been ragones long-time friend and neighbor let me tell you guys somthing, mike is not a quitter he will work his ass off to get back to his old ways. I can remember when mike would push pick up trucks up and down the street for a work out. He is a warrior he will prevail ,so hop off it. Willis Mcgahee got his acl crushed in a bowl game and everything worked out for him. So to write him off is ridicioulous i know what it looks like but still dont count raggatoni- ragoneee out.

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