A year after Notre Dame got through the season without an injury at the precariously thin defensive end position, the Irish have suffered a second loss, this time a major one. Head coach Brian Kelly announced defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore will miss the rest of the season with a detached medial collateral ligament.
“Kapron will be out for the season,” Kelly said this afternoon. “It was a very unusual injury. Our doctors couldn’t get a good feel after the game for what it was.”
The injury takes another key player out of the two-deep depth chart and robs the Irish of their most consistent defensive lineman at a time where he’s needed most. Freshman Stephon Tuitt will step into Lewis-Moore’s place on the depth chart.
Who starts across from his is the biggest question for the Irish front seven. Ethan Johnson has missed the past two games for the Irish, recovering from a high ankle sprain. Kelly hopes to have him back to play this weekend against Navy’s option offense.
“E.J. will practice for us today for the first time. We’ll see what he can do,” Kelly said. “I don’t believe he’s at a point now where he can take every rep, but we’re confident that he’s going to be able to help us on Saturday.”
If he’s not, it’ll be freshman Aaron Lynch lining up opposite Tuitt. Supplying the depth behind them will be freshman Chase Hounshell and sophomore Kona Schwenke.
When you looked at the defensive roster at the beginning of the year, the four most irreplaceable players on the defense were Manti Te’o, Harrison Smith, and Johnson and Lewis-Moore. The Irish will play an offense that relies on experience and physicality at the point of attack with mostly freshman across the front line, turning Saturday’s game into a very interesting proposition.
“Kapron and Ethan probably have more experience against the option than anybody here in terms of actually understanding their jobs and what to do,” Kelly said. “But, you know, we’ll call on the next guy.”