Notre Dame will now be without two of its top pass-catchers when it opens the season on Labor Day at Louisville. Junior receiver Michael Young broke his collarbone in Saturday’s practice, per reports, and will miss at least a month of action, if not more than two. Junior tight end Cole Kmet suffered a similar injury earlier in the month.
Irish Sports Daily first reported Young’s break, though the injury itself was seen by many media members during a practice open to them, Notre Dame faculty and staff, and season ticket holders and their families. Similar to Kmet’s incident, Young broke the collarbone completing a catch to the turf.
Young had emerged as a starter this offseason, along the field (wide) side of play, opposite senior Chase Claypool. Young’s 11 career catches for 156 yards and two touchdowns may seem modest, but they include a few big plays, particularly a bubble screen he took for 66 yards at Wake Forest. It did not result in a touchdown only because Young’s legs gave out — the distance covered was far more than 66 yards, catching the ball near one sideline and being tackled approaching the other.
Without Young — a four-week recovery would have him back just before the Irish head to face Georgia on Sept. 21, while two full months would see him return to action during the off week preceding a trip to Michigan on Oct. 26 — Notre Dame will have a few options.
Offensive coordinator Chip Long could plug-and-play, calling upon either Braden Lenzy or Joe Wilkins to replace Young. Both sophomores, neither made a catch last year. Lenzy may have the higher ceiling, being a true burner, but Wilkins has shown more consistency to date.
Long could also shift players around, moving fifth-year Chris Finke from the slot to the field and inserting sophomore Lawrence Keys at slot. While Keys is just as unproven as both his aforementioned classmates, his work in practice has long been more eye-catching. Finke was already expected to be a preferred target of senior quarterback Ian Book; this just may heighten that need.
On Paul Moala
While Irish head coach Brian Kelly could not confirm Young’s injury after Saturday’s practice — Kelly next meets with the media Wednesday — he did say sophomore Rover Paul Moala recently underwent surgery on a thumb tendon. Kelly said Moala could be back in practice as soon as the middle of this week.
Moala is the likely backup Rover, behind junior Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.
“You want a young guy to be in there as much as possible,” Kelly said. “But Paul’s a heady kid. He’s locked in, he hasn’t missed any meetings.”
On Donte Vaughn
Vaughn has also missed a few practices while working through a quad injury, but Kelly did not express much concern about the senior cornerback’s return. Vaughn has battled injuries throughout his career, but this would be more minor than those earlier in his career and should not preclude him from continuing to establish himself as Notre Dame’s starting field cornerback, opposite classmate Troy Pride.