Alex Bars is done for the year. The sophomore offensive lineman, who made his second start of the season on Saturday, fractured his ankle in the second quarter, the seventh season-ending injury suffered by an Irish player. Bars had surgery this afternoon, performed by team surgeon Brian Ratigan, Brian Kelly announced during his Sunday teleconference.
Fellow sophomore Quenton Nelson replaced Bars. Nelson had started every game this season until he injured his own ankle against Clemson. Nelson was a game-time decision according to Kelly heading into the weekend, but a week off—along with the emergence of Bars—made it preferential to keep Bars off the field for two more weeks.
But with Bars done and Kelly and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand needing to make a decision as to who’d be the next man in, Kelly called on Nelson, and the rugged sophomore delivered.
“Toughness. Just toughness,” Kelly said, when asked about Nelson’s performance. “He struggled during the week. He’s still not 100 percent, but he went in there and didn’t miss a beat.”
It’ll be interesting to see who slides into the two-deep at guard with Bars out. The injury also stressed the tackle depth chart. While he’s spent most of his time working with Nelson on the interior, Bars is the odds-on favorite to replace Ronnie Stanley at left tackle next season.
Kelly compared the injury to the one Malik Zaire suffered. Zaire is expected to be back and ready for spring practice. Bars’ injury comes roughly a month later, so we’ll see what his recovery timeline is down the line.