Big news came out of South Bend today as Brian Kelly announced that the Irish will be without defensive tackle Louis Nix this weekend. Nix was already being monitored for a balky shoulder that took him off the field for a few snaps against USC, but was limited this week with knee tendinitis. He won’t make the trip to Colorado Springs.
Without Nix, the Irish defensive front will be tested against Air Force’s option attack, and will likely slide both Prince Shembo and Ishaq Williams down to defensive end and use Stephon Tuitt inside. Kelly spoke earlier in the week about option offenses not being the easiest for Nix to play against and it’s hard to tell how much of this is preventative. Senior Kona Schwenke will have the opportunity to play more on the inside as well.
While Nix’s injury doesn’t look to be too serious, the season of right guard Christian Lombard was ended after he had back surgery this week to repair a herniated disk. The senior lineman (who has another year of eligibility remaining) slid over to play guard to allow Ronnie Stanley to play tackle. He will be replaced by true freshman Steve Elmer.
That Elmer will move into the starting role and not junior Conor Hanratty says a lot about the progress Elmer has made in his short time in South Bend. The Irish offensive line has a chance to do some damage against Air Force’s 112th ranked rushing defense, but will need Elmer to pick up the slack in Lombard’s absence.