Day, Riggs on track to start, Lombard’s career may be over

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Brian Kelly met with the local media on Saturday afternoon, delivering good news on the status of two key veteran defenders. Both defensive tackle Sheldon Day and cornerback Cody Riggs are on track to start against LSU, adding a few key pieces back into the puzzle.

“Sheldon practiced in full gear and took reps in all of our team (drills),” Kelly said. “We’re a better football team with him. Cody Riggs as well.”

The return of Day is welcome news to Irish fans wondering how Notre Dame was going to stop an LSU ground game that will likely test a green group of defenders early and often. Now getting the junior back in football shape and ready to take a heavy work load is the next order of business.

On the back end, Riggs return after battling a stress reaction in his foot will add some veteran leadership in a secondary that lost Austin Collinsworth and is playing three sophomores.

“No doubt. No doubt there,” Kelly said of Riggs return. “Both those guys will be in the starting lineup.”

The secondary’s struggles have been glaring, especially against USC. Forced to play man coverage, both Devin Butler and Cole Luke struggled with deep passes. LSU hasn’t been a particularly effective passing attack, but features some talented options — especially in man coverage.

One disappointing piece of news came in on fifth-year senior Christian Lombard. The veteran right tackle who has battled injuries since starting all 13 games in 2012 has a lingering back injury that may keep him out of not just the final game of his collegiate career, but end his football playing days for good.

While Kelly didn’t confirm the loss, Irish Illustrated‘s Pete Sampson broke the news earlier Saturday, tweeting that the back injury is a career ender.

Mike McGlinchey has been working in at right tackle, where he relieved Lombard against USC.

“Christian Lombard dealing with lower back that has been cranky, so we’ll be careful with him,” Kelly said. “Christian has fought through it all year.”

Lombard, who was awarded the Father Lange Iron Cross Award during the year-end banquet by Paul Longo, was lauded for the work he put in by his strength coach for dealing with adversity just to get on the field. This likely helps frame those comments.