Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly likes what he has seen after two practices from two defensive starters nursing ankle injuries.
Linebacker Manti Te'o and defensive end Aaron Lynch have looked pretty good at practice as the Irish (6-3) prepare to play Maryland (2-7) on Saturday night.
"Probably a little more than we thought," Kelly told reporters of how Te'o and Lynch have been able to move around in practice. "We were cautious with Manti, and he said, 'Coach, I'm good to go.' He knows his limitation, but I think we are pleased with him."
Even though Te'o said he is ready to do more, Kelly said the junior is finding a balance for what he can do in practice and still perform on Saturday.
"We are well passed toughness. We are well past, 'Hey, is he tough enough?' But we are also at that point where he knows how essential he is in getting us lined up, the front lined up," Kelly said. "He's in that position where he wants to be out there for the communication, but he is smart enough to know that alright maybe I'm not going to get to that position as fast as I normally would. He's being smart, but he wants to be in the fray. He wants to be out there communicating."
Kelly said he has also been pleased with how receiver Robby Toma is preparing for the weekend.
Toma will replace slot receiver Theo Riddick, who has a hamstring injury, in the starting lineup.
"We know Robby. He's a guy that can really help our football team," Kelly said. "It's too bad Theo's out. We don't feel like with Robby Toma we are playing a No. 2 there. He can really help our offense, so we are in pretty good shape there."
Center Braxston Cave will have surgery on his foot Thursday, Kelly said. While the injury is similar in recovery time with an ACL injury, according to Kelly, the senior will likely be limited through spring practice after the procedure is performed to reattach a ligament to his foot.
"I've had two centers, unfortunately, that have played for me who have had a similar injury," Kelly said. "They both came back and were fine, but it takes some time. Braxston will be back. Our guess is he's limited in spring in terms of contact, but he'll be out there snapping, running tempo and doing all those things."