Notre Dame will be without all-purpose junior running back Jafar Armstrong for the foreseeable future, per reports. Armstrong left Monday’s season-opening win at Louisville early in the first quarter, after getting just three touches, all on three consecutive plays during the opening drive, an efficient one finishing with an Irish touchdown.
Armstrong spent the rest of the night on the sideline with a soft-tissue injury to his groin/ab region. The Athletic’s Pete Sampson first reported the malady will keep Armstrong out for at least a month, presumed more, and up to two months.
During an early Tuesday afternoon teleconference, head coach Brian Kelly said Armstrong would be getting an MRI later that day which would inform them of the severity of his injury.
“Felt some discomfort in the groin, ab area,” Kelly said. “He’s had a sports hernia injury that was repaired in high school, so we feel good that there was no structural damage. We need obviously to examine in further.”
That “optimistic” timeline could see Armstrong back on the field when Notre Dame faces Bowling Green on Oct. 5 (a three-game absence), while a two-month recovery would take until Virginia Tech visits South Bend on Nov. 2 (six games).
Armstrong entered the season expected to spark the Irish offense, and those three touches combining for 26 yards and spurring a touchdown drive did nothing to quell those lofty projections. Originally a receiver, Armstrong is equally adept from the backfield and from the slot. If he did not reach 1,000 rushing yards this season, he seemed assured 1,000 total yards from scrimmage.
Armstrong ran for 383 yards and seven touchdowns while catching 14 passes for 159 yards last season, even though he missed three games due to a severe knee infection and never reached full fitness afterward. In that respect, this is the second season an unusual injury to Armstrong frustrates Notre Dame’s offensive game-planning.
Without Armstrong, Irish offensive coordinator Chip Long leaned heavily on senior running back Tony Jones in the season-opening 35-17 victory, adding a dosage of sophomore Jahmir Smith in the red zone. Jones took 15 carries for 110 yards and a score, while Smith added 24 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries. Jones is also a capable receiver, though that did not show on Labor Day, but Smith has a wrist injury necessitating a cast at the moment, limiting that aspect of his game.
Three of Smith’s eight carries came within the 3-yard-line, making it clear he will be Notre Dame’s goal line back for the season.
Armstrong joins a high-profile list of sidelined offensive skill players for the Irish. Junior tight end Cole Kmet (broken collarbone) may return to contact in practice this week, pending the results of a CAT scan. Junior receiver Michael Young (broken collarbone) is about a week behind Kmet in the recovery process. Sophomore receiver Kevin Austin remains silently suspended, believed to be for the whole season but possibly for only three more games.