Already without sophomore receiver Chase Claypool, Notre Dame will not have sophomore receiver Kevin Stepherson or freshman running back C.J. Holmes in the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1, Irish coach Brian Kelly announced Wednesday afternoon.
WNDU reported this suspension stems from a shoplifting incident Friday night in which both Stepherson and Holmes were arrested. Charges are pending.
This is Stepherson’s second suspension of the 2017 season, though the first one that cost him the season’s first four games was never officially confirmed. He was also involved in an arrest of five Notre Dame players for marijuana possession the week before the 2016 season.
It took Stepherson another couple games to find his on-field groove, finally breaking loose against USC for three catches for 58 yards and a score, adding two rushes for 24 yards. He finished the season with 19 catches for 359 yards and five touchdowns with five rush attempts gaining 76 yards. Accumulating those stats in essentially half a season kept Stepherson on a similar pace — actually, a better one — as his breakout freshman campaign.
Holmes enrolled early last winter, but then suffered a shoulder injury in spring practice. At first, it seemed that might keep him out the entire season, but as ankle injuries depleted the Notre Dame running back corps, he saw some action to provide possible depth. Holmes finished with eight carries for 32 yards, all coming in the Oct. 7 victory at North Carolina.
Claypool will miss the bowl game against No. 17 LSU due to shoulder surgery. He finished the season with 29 catches for 402 yards and two touchdowns.
Kelly previously said junior Equanimeous St. Brown would move into Claypool’s position as the field receiver and junior Miles Boykin could see more time at the boundary position, St. Brown’s usual duty. That should still be the case even without Stepherson.
Irish fifth-year receiver Cam Smith has recovered from hamstring issues that plagued him in the season’s second half. He could be a quick fix to Stepherson’s absence.