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Big personnel shakeup after first day in pads

Aug 9, 2012, 11:59 AM EDT

Alex Welch

Jordan Prestwood leaving the football team yesterday was hardly the only big piece of personnel news. As the Irish donned pads for the first time in front of local media, Brian Kelly’s troops had a few big roster shakeups, two that could change the positional plans for the Irish.

Most notable was a serious knee injury to junior tight end Alex Welch, who was competing with sophomores Ben Koyack and Troy Niklas for the No. 2 job behind All-American Tyler Eifert. Welch was injured near the end of practice and carried off the field. As I hinted at yesterday on Twitter, multiple sources told me it was a torn ACL, essentially ending his season before it starts. (IrishIllustrated.com has also confirmed the ACL tear.)

The loss of Welch doesn’t limit what the Irish offense can do, but it sure takes away some of the versatility it could have had. With Welch, Koyack and Niklas, the Irish had three capable in-line tight ends, allowing Eifert to be split wide, in the slot, or just about anywhere Kelly and offensive coordinator Chuck Martin want to put him. While senior Jake Golic will move into the mix with Welch gone, losing the 6-foot-4, 250-pounder from Cincinnati is a blow to a position of great depth.

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One position that doesn’t have great depth is the ‘dog’ outside linebacker. Playing on the wide side of the field, the two defenders with the most experience there last season are no longer at the position, with Prince Shembo competing with Ishaq Williams for Darius Fleming’s old job and Troy Niklas now playing tight end. That leaves junior linebacker Danny Spond and sophomore Ben Councell battling for the position, a competition that’s been thrown in flux after Kelly reported that Spond suffered a concussion in practice yesterday.

Kelly only had the preliminary report on Spond, making it a guessing game for fans to wonder if the junior linebacker is out for days or weeks. Some have referenced a serious concussion Spond suffered during his senior season of high school, but while relevant, it’s not really an indicator of how long or serious this injury  could be.

While Spond heals, the majority of the reps will be taken by Councell, ready to take the field after sitting out his freshman season. Long thought of as the prototype field-side linebacker on the roster, the early returns on his play seem incredibly positive, with both the head coach and a reporter agreeing that the 6-foot-5, 240-pound North Carolina native has been a disruptive force early on.

“He’s really athletic,” Kelly said. “He can play out over the No. 2 and re-route him but he can also sit down on the tight end. That versatility is important and he’s long. He plays pretty big out there. He’s a guy that arrives at the ball with the kind of tenacity that you want. Just every day is a new experience for him, learning. But he’s what it should look like out there.”

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Lastly, just days after announcing Brad Carrico was hanging up the pads for good because of a foot injury, it appears running back Cam Roberson is doing the same thing. The junior running back suffered a major knee injury two springs ago and just hasn’t been able to fully recover.

“Cam Roberson physically was not able to compete at the level that he felt was necessary to play here at Notre Dame so we’re going to pursue a medical hardship for him,” Kelly said.

The loss likely won’t be felt on the depth chart, but it’s sad news for a guy that came into Notre Dame with high hopes. It’s a stark reminder for both players and recruits that picking a school isn’t just about picking a football program. It’s a bit of a cliche, but there’s some truth to the Notre Dame maxim that choosing a college isn’t a four-year decision but rather a forty year one. With medical hardship scholarships, both Carrico and Roberson will be able to complete their educations without counting against the Irish’s 85-man scholarship limit.

  1. bearcatirishfan - Aug 9, 2012 at 2:44 PM

    Hey nude what about Hendrix to tight end?

    • nudeman - Aug 9, 2012 at 3:39 PM

      Well I know you’re kidding about tight end, BUT …

      1) if you read 4HL articles in the last few days, Golson is starting to separate himself

      2) AH sounds like the same AH.
      Game still very “fast”, takes off and runs at the first sign of trouble, threw 4 INTs yesterday, still throws everything at 100 MPH, poor field vision

      Right now I’m all alone on the idea that he should be playing another position
      Next year, with Kiel and Golson a year older and wiser and Zaire, I wouldn’t rule it out.

      AH will have a decision to make:
      Stay at ND as a 3rd or 4th string QB, move to another position, or transfer.

      • irishbornraised - Aug 9, 2012 at 4:14 PM

        I don’t think he’s that kind of kid, he seems to see his future in medicine. Smart kid, always lively in interviews. Also, from what I hear, TR is already starting his future career as coach. He actually rooms with EG and is lending his mastery of the offense. It’s the closest we can get to TR’s head in EG’s body

      • nudeman - Aug 9, 2012 at 4:40 PM

        “TR’s head in EG’s body”

        Wait … you’re saying that’s a GOOD thing?

    • gtizzo - Aug 9, 2012 at 5:34 PM

      That moved doesn’t make sense we don’t know if Hendrix can catch. Plus there is plenty of solid depth. Remember Welch hadn’t see much playing time either. As long as Eifert doesn’t go down to injury ND is fine at TE.

      • nudeman - Aug 9, 2012 at 8:06 PM

        I don’t think moving him to TE was a serious comment
        Among other things he’s only 230

  2. goirish08 - Aug 9, 2012 at 3:02 PM

    What’s up with the young kids from FL? In recent memory ND has lost Boyd, Lynch, and now Prestwood! It seems like the FL kids have been the hardest to keep in South Bend. It’s always sad to see some of these talented athletes enroll and leave the program for whatever reason.

    • gtizzo - Aug 9, 2012 at 5:32 PM

      Don’t put Prestwood in with Lynch. Remember he committed to ND and switch to Florida State. Then transfered from Florida State to ND, this kid had his chance to stay in Florida and left. Assuming the reason is grades, the kid bite off more then he could chew. Something tells me that isn’t the reason, but BK has recruited 5 linemen this class I doubt it will hurt to much.

  3. seanb20124 - Aug 9, 2012 at 5:48 PM

    Spencer Boyd left USF and went to some lower level school in W. Virginia.

  4. mmcss690 - Aug 9, 2012 at 5:55 PM

    I think if you add 10-20 pounds to Hendrix he’d make a hell of a full back! Speed and power!

  5. bearcatirishfan - Aug 9, 2012 at 7:11 PM

    It was really just a joke guys spawned by bob davie’s history of doing that very thing. Imdon’t think this offense has a fullback does it?

    • nudeman - Aug 9, 2012 at 8:07 PM

      I still say he’d make a good safety or OLB
      NEXT year

  6. tjak2 - Aug 9, 2012 at 10:02 PM

    Keith, please my man, is there any other team in major college football as injury prone as Notre Dame? What the hell has been going on over the last several years. Are we really snakebit, or do other teams have these kind of injury issues. I cannot believe the # of injuries we get in practice…..I am talking about practice.

    • papadec - Aug 9, 2012 at 10:41 PM

      tjak2 – there is an item @ espn regarding Deontae Cooper (RB) @ UWash. He has torn his ACL for the third time – he has yet to play a game for the Huskies, having missed his first two seasons with those ACL tares(tears). It ain’t just us.

  7. bearcatirishfan - Aug 9, 2012 at 10:58 PM

    Look up oklahoma they’re down four or so projected starters already

  8. bearcatirishfan - Aug 9, 2012 at 10:59 PM

    I know you got it nude I think some of the other folks might have thought I was serious.

  9. tjak2 - Aug 10, 2012 at 2:36 AM

    Okay, It is not that I want other teams to be hurt, hell I want the Irish to always compete against the best, but the news has just seemed so bleak the last couple of years.

  10. mmcss690 - Aug 10, 2012 at 4:43 AM

    Maybe not playing as a “fullback” in this system, but … You get the point.

    1:02 — Yes, that was quarterback Andrew Hendrix taking the handoff and running through the gauntlet, evading the tackle of Ishaq Williams.

  11. dickasman - Aug 10, 2012 at 10:21 AM

    Thank god they have a chance to get their notre dame degree and move on to bigger and better things in life.

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