While Notre Dame hasn’t publicly commented on it, multiple outlets have reported a significant shoulder injury to safety Austin Collinsworth. The injury, reportedly sustained during the Blue-Gold game, has the potential to be season ending, altering the Irish’s plans at the safety position, where Collinsworth was set to play major minutes.
If we are to assume to worst (and this is Notre Dame football, that seems to be the only way people assume), the loss of Collinsworth for the year leaves the Irish particularly vulnerable in the nickel formation, where Collinsworth would’ve likely played with Zeke Motta and Jamoris Slaughter. Former walk-on Chris Salvi, fifth-year senior Dan McCarthy, and a fleet of young, but inexperienced safeties will now have to get up to speed quickly before the season opening game against Navy.
In Brian Kelly’s first season, the Irish struggled with depth at safety, with injuries limiting the Irish to basically a two-man scholarship depth chart of Harrison Smith and Motta. With Slaughter, Motta and McCarthy, the Irish are in better shape than they were in 2010, especially with the coaching staff feeling like Salvi can contribute and take significant snaps as well. New safeties coach Bob Elliott, lauded as a teacher on the field, will have a chance to earn that reputation, with Elijah Shumate, John Turner, C.J. Prosise, Nick Baratti, and Chris Badger all preparing for their first season in uniform.
Again, there’s no official word that Collinsworth is out for the season, but multiple sources have confirmed the shoulder surgery. The injury might actually be a blessing in disguise for Collinsworth’s development, allowing a redshirt season after the rising junior played in both his freshman and sophomore seasons, mostly as a special teams contributor.
With the scholarship depth at cornerback — Lo Wood, Bennett Jackson, Josh Atkinson, Jalen Brown and converted running back Cam McDaniel — not exactly fruitful, it’ll be up to one of the safeties to step up and claim significant minutes in the nickel package.
The odds-on favorite has to be Danny McCarthy. Many raised eyebrows when McCarthy was brought back for a fifth year, but head coach Brian Kelly’s decision to bring back the little used safety could turn out to be one of the best of the offseason. Long thought to be a better athlete than his older brother Kyle (who was only a special teams contributor until his senior season), this final season could be a breakthrough for the Youngstown, Ohio native.
UPDATE: Notre Dame has confirmed Collinsworth’s injury: “Notre Dame junior safety Austin Collinsworth had shoulder surgery to repair torn labrum and will require 4-6 months to fully recover.”