Jan 31, 2014, 7:27 PM EDT
While Signing Day is the focus right now, the start of spring practice is just over a month away, with the Irish beginning drills on March 3rd, their earliest start in the Brian Kelly era. And while the Irish head coach was meeting the local media to introduce his new offensive coordinator and quarterback coach, he spent some time answering questions about his team’s offseason progress.
The largest update came on the status of the Irish’s injury report. With numbers dwindling throughout last season, Kelly gave positive updates on just about every returning player.
Let’s walk through the player, their injury and a status update:
Nick Martin: The Irish’s starting center is ahead of progress as he rehabs a knee injury that ended his season early. Getting Martin back for spring drills will help tip the hand of Harry Hiestand as to what the offensive line will look like heading into the season.
Ben Councell: Another player that Kelly was very happy about, citing Martin and Councell’s progress from major knee injuries as well ahead of schedule.
“Two guys in particular have exceeded all expectations and that’s Ben Councell and Nick Martin,” Kelly said. “If they walked through here right now you would not know they had surgery.”
Jarrett Grace: The senior linebacker is out for the spring, while his leg break still heals. This may not be breaking news, but the severity of Grace’s injury — a leg fracture in four different places — is a complicated rehab process and an injury that could’ve been career threatening.
Devin Butler: The freshman cornerback caught the ire of his head coach for tweeting about his offseason surgery looks to have had shoulder surgery, but Kelly didn’t seem concerned.
“We went in there and tightened some things up, not as complex of a surgery,” Kelly said. “He should be fine for us.”
Doug Randolph: The freshman’s shoulder has healed after a preexisting injury and he’ll be ready for spring.
Nicky Baratti: One of the X factors heading into next season is Baratti, who had multiple shoulder surgeries that cost him his sophomore season. While he’s likely capable of taking live snaps this spring, Kelly seems content letting him get healthy for preseason camp.
“Whether we put him in, in full contact because of a second surgery, I think that’s still questionable,” Kelly said. “We may just want to ride right through the spring and have his first contact be in the fall but if we are playing he will be cleared to play.”
John Montelus: The rising sophomore offensive lineman will be ready to compete entering spring practice for the open guard job Chris Watt leaves behind.
Chase Hounshell: After two lost seasons from shoulder injuries, Hounshell has every opportunity to compete for a starting job with Stephon Tuitt departing early. With a fresh start with Brian VanGorder, Hounshell will be full go come March.
Tony Springmann: After having a scary setback with an infection in his surgically repaired knee, Springmann is back moving around. While his status for spring is still up in the air, Kelly sounded optimistic that Springmann can be a big part of the Irish’s plans along the defensive line.