Brian Kelly announced that reserves Tate Nichols and Anthony Rabasa would be done for the season, with both needing shoulder surgeries. The surgeries were being performed this week with an eye towards having both players ready to compete in spring practice.
“We want to get these guys 100 percent for spring ball,” Kelly said. “They both had sublexing shoulders that were coming in and out. We were able to shoulder harness them, they were able to practice effectively for us. But we don’t want them to be held back in the spring, because they’re going to be good players for us. October 1st was kind of the deadline for that.”
Nichols was the closest to seeing the field, opening up the season in the two-deep depth chart behind starting left tackle Zack Martin. Rabasa likely was spending the season on the developmental track anyway, with his transition to inside linebacker perfect for a redshirt season.
Entering the year, the Irish felt like they had three starting caliber tackles, with Christian Lombard ready to play behind fifth-year senior Taylor Dever or Martin. Nichols has impressed the coaching staff with his athleticism, a trait apparent ever since Kelly and his staff targeted the high school tight end early in their first recruiting class, flipping the big-bodied athlete from a commitment to Stanford and immediately moving him to the offensive line.
Meanwhile, Rabasa’s surgery allows him to return for the spring, inserting a guy that impressed the coaching staff with his athleticism into a potentially fluid inside linebacker depth chart. If Manti Te’o decides to leave Notre Dame after three seasons and go to the NFL, the Irish will have a slew of candidates competing for two jobs, with Carlo Calabrese, Dan Fox, and Kendall Moore returning and guys like Anthony McDonald and David Posluszny not guaranteed a fifth year.
Kelly’s mentioning of an October 1st deadline is interesting to note because it actually acknowledges the importance of spring football and the continual development of the depth chart. Even though both guys were able to practice and participate, they’re being shut down know because of the calendar, so they’ll have every chance to recover and be ready in the spring.