FORT WAYNE – Notre Dame’s 37-34 victory over then-No. 22 Arizona State (3-2) Saturday night in Arlington, Texas, cost the Irish (4-2) a starting linebacker and respected receiver.
Coach Brian Kelly said Sunday that inside linebacker Jarrett Grace had surgery in Dallas on the broken fibula in his right leg, and receiver Daniel Smith is scheduled to have surgery this week after the swelling goes down in his fractured left ankle.
Grace was inserted into the starting lineup over Dan Fox in the Irish’s fourth game, a 17-13 win over Michigan State, and was the team’s leading tackler going into Saturday night’s game. Grace had 40 tackles with one for loss before his injury.
Kelly said Grace, who had a rod inserted into his leg, will remain in Dallas until the chance of blood clots is eliminated and he is cleared to fly back to campus.
Obviously a big loss for us, but we’ve got a senior in Danny Fox that will step in at that position, Kelly said Sunday.
Fox, who has 36 tackles with three for loss, will likely rejoin senior Carlo Calabrese, who has 40 tackles with four for loss, in the Irish’s starting lineup.
And the Irish, who are thin at inside linebacker, will turn to senior Kendall Moore (two tackles), junior Joe Schmidt (eight tackles) and possibly freshman Michael Deeb, who hasn’t played this season, to add depth.
We’ll have to activate them on the bye week and start to consider all three of those guys in terms of being in the gap, said Kelly, whose team’s next game is at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 19 against USC at Notre Dame Stadium.
Smith, a senior, had his career ended by his injury in the first half.
The South Bend Clay product had one catch for 9 yards this season and had eight catches for 56 yards in 26 games in his career.
There was a lot of emotion in the locker room because they love Danny Smith and what he has done for our program as a dedicated player for Notre Dame, Kelly said of when he talked about Smith during halftime.
He loves Notre Dame, and we have seen him grow as a person and player, and he is going to be sorely missed.
I would say that his impact is a local player that was on a 12-0 undefeated regular-season team, and he has left an impact on our younger receivers as to how to work every single day and how to handle himself both on and off the field.
Kelly said he will use the bye week to give veteran players with heavy workloads as much rest as possible, while getting more work for younger players.
One player that needs the break the most, according to Kelly, is defensive end Stephon Tuitt.
The junior had offseason surgery to repair a sports hernia and has been dealing with tightness in his back.
He’s really struggled all week with back tightness, Kelly said. He missed a day of practice because his back locked up. We got to be careful with Stephon. This week, we will work on technique, but we are going to make sure he is healthy for us going into USC.