Brian Kelly’s suspicions were confirmed when an MRI of freshman running back Cameron Roberson’s knee showed a partially torn ACL and a torn lateral collateral ligament. There’s no official timetable on Roberson’s return, but you’ve got to think that getting anything out of Roberson next season would be a big surprise.
Meanwhile, linebacker Anthony McDonald’s spring is over after suffering a partially torn pectoral muscle. McDonald was a front runner to play next to Manti Te’o last season but had injuries derail his progress as Carlo Calabrese and Brian Smith slid ahead of him in the depth chart. The injury is another bit of bad luck for the Southern California product, who has struggled to stay healthy and had plenty of opportunities this spring to get an extended look.
Down to two scholarship running backs, the Irish fielded open tryouts for walk-ons, as running backs coach Tim Hinton broke down the current depth chart.
“We have five total,” Hinton said. “Derry Herlihy (a walk-on from last year’s team) has come back and helped us out, and obviously the new guy (Tyler Plantz, of Providence Catholic school in In Lenox, Illinois). It’s an interesting room. I’m coaching my rear end off, it’s a lot of fun. Because three of the five really don’t know a lot, we are working the heck out of those guys.
“Here’s what coaching them in the spring does, it makes them better scout players in the fall. And the better our scout teams are, the better our No. 1 defense is.”
The injury to Roberson certainly hurts the depth of the Irish backfield and two scholarship running backs isn’t an ideal allocation of your roster. That said, there’s no real reason to panic (yet), as Cam McDaniel’s arrival this summer gets the numbers back to an appropriate, albeit thin, place. While most recruitniks doubt McDaniel has the chops to be a three down running back, it’s clear that the coaching staff is confident in his abilities.
McDonald enters his senior season snake-bit, and the pectoral injury likely limits his ability to weight train and continue to add the needed bulk and strength to contribute on the inside. Even with Te’o limited and McDonald out, there’s a good group of linebackers competing for playing time.