Wide receiving corps takes injury hits

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[We’re going to make this update completely free of a defensive end that’s not to be named.]

With over 600 coaches on campus taking in the Notre Dame coaching clinic, the Irish had an open practice for observation. After, Brian Kelly — who was in Chicago the night before for a fundraiser — addressed the assembled media, talking about the challenges of plowing forward and finishing spring strong.

First off, some injury updates of note. Prince Shembo is lost for the spring, with the Irish linebacker having surgery performed on his foot that was supposed to keep him off it a week or two.

“He’s in a cast right now,” Kelly said of Shembo. “I think his prognosis is probably six weeks. They had to put a screw in there. I think, generally speaking, when you get into the bone it’s a six-week procedure.”

The injury has given Ishaq Williams a chance to shine in practice. During yesterday’s impromptu media session, Kelly raised more than a few eyebrows when he discussed the struggles Williams had on campus as well. Kelly revealed that he gave Williams a few extra days off at home over winter break to help him get straight mentally. The time away worked, and thanks to an opportunity, Williams looks to be one of the true risers coming out of spring practice.

Staying with the injuries topic, the already thin wide receiving corp took two hits this weekend, with senior John Goodman suffering a ankle sprain and rising junior Luke Massa suffering an ACL tear. Goodman’s injury may keep him out of the Blue-and-Gold game, but doesn’t seem all that serious. Massa’s is a different case, and the converted quarterback, who was having a nice spring, might be looking at a five-to-six month rehabilitation.

“Massa’s got an ACL injury and it looks like it’s gonna require surgery,” Kelly explained. I think they’re certain it’s an ACL, whether it’s an ACL repair, I think Brian Ratigan is in there now doing another evaluation.”

With a depth chart at outside wide receiver already thin, the Irish now only have TJ Jones, Daniel Smith, and Davaris Daniels as scholarship outside wide receivers on the roster for spring, while they await the arrival of Justin Ferguson and Chris Brown. When asked about developing someone with the options thin, Kelly was brutally honest with his assessment of everybody’s choice to breakout this spring, freshman Davaris Daniels.

“We’re trying to get Davaris to move his game up,” Kelly said. “He’s a good talent. He doesn’t know how to practice yet, he’s learning. He’s just got to learn how to play the game. The way we play the game here is that you’ve got to go through the echo of the whistle. But he’ll learn. He wants to be a good player.”

Kelly’s public challenge likely would’ve been made with or without injuries to Goodman and Massa, as Daniels is the type of athlete the Irish can break loose in this offensive system.

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Lastly, Kelly was quick to refute some message board fodder that came from the Rockne dinner that had the head coach allegedly aiming for eight wins next season. He was quick to qualify, and stomp out any rumors swirling.

“No, that’s not accurate,” Kelly said of the eight-win goal. “What I said was Notre Dame had not strung together three years in a row of eight wins or more, so if we win eight games next year or more it will be the first time in 16 years. Thank you for getting that accurate. You shoot for eight wins around here you won’t be around very long. Trust me, my boss is up there. He already told me that. Now, we can build towards that. That’s part of what we’re doing. There are building blocks in putting together our football program. You want consistency. The point of that whole statement was you need consistency, you need stability. Consistency is you can’t have a 10-win season then a three-win season. You’ve gotta build consistency and that’s what we’re all shooting for.”