SOUTH BEND – Tony Springmann’s absence will force Notre Dame to get freshman defensive lineman Isaac Rochell up to speed quicker than anticipated.
Coach Brian Kelly announced Thursday that Springmann, a former Bishop Dwenger standout, will miss the season after suffering a dislocated left knee. Springmann also had severe nerve damage in his knee, according to Kelly.
The loss of Springmann, a 6-foot-5, 296-pound junior, deprives Notre Dame of a lineman who could fill in for any of the expected starters – junior Stephon Tuitt or sophomore Sheldon Day at defensive end or senior Louis Nix III at nose guard.
It alters our depth a little bit, Kelly said during Thursday’s media day of losing Springmann. We’re going to have to push Isaac Rochell most likely into action this year. We were hoping, maybe, we could be a little more patient with Isaac, but we’re going to have to really accelerate that learning curve for Isaac this year.
Springmann’s father, Dave, said in a text message that his son underwent surgery Thursday afternoon.
The recovery period, I’ve heard various estimates, is six to eight months, possibly, but it depends, Dave Springmann said in a phone interview Tuesday. As with anything, there’s standard procedures, but depending on the health of the patient and those sorts of things, they can vary.
He’s used to dealing with aches and pains, so he seems to be OK, in good spirits. As he acknowledges, it’s a risk of the game, unfortunately, that you get hurt.
Rochell, a 6-3, 280-pounder from McDonough, Ga., became the Irish’s top-rated defensive line recruit after Eddie Vanderdoes decided not to come to Notre Dame after signing his letter of intent in February. Rochell was ranked the 17th-best defensive end prospect by Scout.com.
Notre Dame’s depth isn’t completely dependent on the freshman.
The Irish have senior Kona Schwenke and fifth-year senior Tyler Stockton to back up Nix, and senior Justin Utupo, junior Anthony Rabasa – a former outside linebacker – and sophomore Jarron Jones at end.
Notre Dame also has freshman Jacob Matuska and can bring linebacker Ishaq Williams, a junior, down from his outside linebacker spot to play on the line.
We should be able to get as deep as we need to with all of those guys, defensive line coach Mike Elston said. There are a lot of guys in there to give us added depth at the D-line.
Springmann is the second defensive lineman Notre Dame lost for the season. Junior Chase Hounshell is out as he recovers from his second shoulder surgery in three years.
He is also the second defensive player the team lost for the season in the last six days.
Starting outside linebacker Danny Spond told the team Saturday he was no longer able to play football, and the senior released a statement Tuesday saying he had to stop playing because the reoccurrence of a severe migraine, which can mimic the affects of a stroke.
It all comes from the next-man-in’ philosophy, safety Mathias Farley, who became a starter last year when Jamoris Slaughter suffered a season-ending injury in Week 3, said of the defense recovering after losing players.
No matter who you are, you have to be ready if your number is called. You have to put in the work to put yourself in position to be ready. It’s not fun to lose anybody. I think it’s unfortunate, but (Springmann) is still going to be here. He may not be on the field, but his presence is still going to be felt.
I wish him the best on his recovery, and I’m sure he will be back and healthy for next season.
Springmann was in street clothes at practice Thursday morning and wore a brace on his left leg. He was able to walk without crutches and stood near the defensive linemen as they went through drills offering advice now and then.
Springmann, who didn’t play as a freshman, played in 13 games last season. He had 11 tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack.
We’re really disappointed for Tony, Kelly said. He had made some great strides.