From scout team to leading tackler to unavailable. Coronavirus created an opportunity for Irish sophomore linebacker Jack Kiser to jump from Notre Dame’s scout team to receiving the game ball against South Florida and with head coach Brian Kelly deeming Kiser unavailable this weekend against Florida State (1-2, 0-2 ACC), coronavirus presumably took away the chance to build on that performance just as quickly.
When Kiser, who finished with eight tackles including two for loss against the Bulls, was not included in the two-deep released by the Irish on Monday, it was chalked up to junior Buck linebacker Shayne Simon and sophomore Buck linebacker Marist Liufau simply returning to the lineup. Maybe Kiser would still play plenty, but the two-deep often reverts to past precedent before eventually making a distinct change, so him falling off it could be considered normal.
Kelly clarified that Thursday before adding senior defensive tackle Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa will also be unavailable against the Seminoles (7:30 ET, NBC).
“Availability. Him and Myron won’t be available,” Kelly said.
For obvious reasons, Kelly did not expound on that status.
Without Kiser, Notre Dame (2-0, 1-0) can rely on Simon and Liufau to pick up where they left off after the season opener, arguably neither playing as well as Kiser did a week later, but both having outplayed the unexpected star throughout preseason practice.
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“All of them can contribute and obviously they did,” Kelly said following the 52-0 rout of the Bulls, in which seven Irish players within the two-deep were absent for presumed isolation or quarantine reasons. “I don’t think that’s going to change.
“Shayne’s coming back. He’ll be back, and Shayne will play for us. Marist will be back, and he’ll play for us. … We’re blessed that we have those kinds of players and we’ll find roles for them.”
Losing Tagovailoa-Amosa creates a bit more of a depth chart quandary. Junior Jayson Ademilola has warranted additional playing time for a good while, but Notre Dame may struggle to supplement his snaps. Next on the depth chart would be sophomore Howard Cross, but perhaps junior Ja’Mion Franklin could slide over from nose guard for some work.
That is, if they are available. As of Monday, 11 Irish players remained in isolation or quarantine. Even if a player has cleared that hurdle since then, it is questionable how much he is able to play this weekend.
October 5 – Testing Update pic.twitter.com/8sLNEi0aXG
— Notre Dame Football PR Team (@NDFootballPR) October 5, 2020
A player returning from isolation after a positive test — seven of those 11 were in isolation — can be expected to need at least four days to get back to a 100 percent workload after his 10-day isolation. In other words, if one of those seven was released from isolation as early as Tuesday, he would still likely not be full-go by kickoff.
His usage could go beyond snaps, though. Kelly said Notre Dame has taken the common-sense approach of spacing players recovered from COVID-19 between players who have not contracted the virus, furthering the intended effects of social distancing.
“For example, in a locker room setting, they would be sitting next to somebody that is non-COVID, because certainly, we’re going to look at the potential positives on the back end of this as they’ve already gone through the virus and are not going to be spreading it to somebody that does not have COVID,” Kelly said.
The approximately 30 players to have tested positive are still expected to follow all protocols, partly to maintain consistency across the program, but they are exempt from testing for 90 days.
Players in quarantine can return to modified conditioning after seven days and two negative tests, though they remain separated from the football team for a total of 14 days.