FORT WAYNE – Notre Dame isnt panicking despite the loss of cornerback Lo Wood to a season-ending Achilles injury.
Coach Brian Kelly, who confirmed the injury during a news conference Tuesday, and cornerbacks coach Kerry Cooks said they believe the Irish cornerbacks have enough talent to make up for their inexperience.
Its been a very interesting dynamic, Cooks said at media day last Thursday. (Junior Bennett Jackson) really hasnt played a lot in the field of play at the cornerback position. Hes had a great spring. Hes had a great camp. Im excited to see what he brings to the table.
Josh Atkinson and Jalen Brown, those are still young guys; those guys are working their butts off. They are working hard. The best experience for those guys is to get out there and play and get better and learn from their mistakes. I think that (freshman KeiVarae Russell has) got all the tools to be a really, really good one. He doesnt look like a freshman out there right now.
Jackson moved to cornerback from receiver last season, but he mainly played on special teams as he backed up Gary Gray and Robert Blanton, who both graduated, and Wood. The 6-foot, 185-pound junior is projected to start the Sept. 1 season opener against Navy in Dublin.
The Irish will turn to Atkinson, Brown and Cam McDaniel, who are sophomores, and Russell and Elijah Shumate, who are freshmen, to fill the other starting spot.
Jackson and Atkinson mainly played on special teams last season, and Brown did not play in 2011. McDaniel and Russell are converted running backs, and Shumate was originally projected to play safety.
I feel really good about the other five corners that we have, Kelly told reporters Tuesday. I think we have enough depth there to play very good football.
Kelly said Wood ruptured his Achilles tendon while he was backpedaling during a non-contact drill Monday. Wood is schedule to have surgery today, and the recovery time is expected to take four to six months.
Kelly said Wood should be back in time for spring practice. Wood, who had 10 tackles and one interception in 21 games his first two seasons, will have two years of eligibility remaining when he returns.
I feel terrible for him, Kelly said. He is a young man that we all wanted to see get this opportunity that hes worked so hard for. Hes a great young man, and I just feel terrible for him.
Kelly said there are no plans to move safety Jamoris Slaughter, who worked at cornerback at times during spring practice, to help shore up the position.
Thats really off the table right now, unless we are devastated with some more injuries, Kelly said. I dont expect that to occur. Jamoris is handling the safety position.
Kelly said he is not panicking about the cornerbacks because they have all shown they have the speed to play the position and he has seen them improve their technique throughout camp.
All these guys have athletic ability to play the position. Now its about honing their skills, Kelly said. At the end of the day, what were talking about is very talented players at that position that just need the experience and just need an opportunity.