Since last Thursday, Notre Dame has a lost a handful of key players to injury. The Irish were still able to beat Stanford 38-17 on Saturday, but the injuries after what had been a reasonably healthy four-game stretch will have an impact on playing time going forward. Here is a breakdown of those hurt recently.
Alex Bars, offensive guard: Bars is easily the most important of the losses to be discussed here. The guard is a fifth-year senior, a captain and one of the team's most vocal leaders. Another player rolled up on his leg against the Cardinal and he went down in obvious pain. On Sunday, Kelly said it was a knee injury – an "ACL/MCL" – and the doctors feared Bars would be lost for the season.
"(It's) devastating for us, because we're losing a captain, and we're losing somebody that is respected and revered by so many in the program," Kelly said of Bars. "And it's not just editorial on my part. This is more I just feel so bad for the kid because he comes back as a graduate student and then you lose him. We've got other players that will go in and play and play at a high level. But to lose him in his senior year is really hard on us."
Among those other players who can play at a high level is redshirt junior Trevor Ruhland, who has played at right guard behind Tommy Kraemer and started in Kraemer's place against Wake Forest because of the latter's injury. He'll likely shift over to start at left guard in place of Bars.
"He's very reliable," Kelly said of Ruhland, who has started just one of his 19 career games. "He doesn't have the size, necessarily, as Alex does, but he brings some other strengths to the position. So he's a really solid player, very instinctive, very smart. I think you're going to see him quite a bit in there."
Jafar Armstrong: Armstrong missed the game against Stanford because of a "bursa sac" infection in his left knee, which Kelly said Saturday will require minor surgery. That also requires time to heal and the coach intimated Armstrong might be out until after the Irish's bye week on Oct. 20, which would mean he'd return against Navy.
Tony Jones Jr.: Like Bars, Jones was injured during the matchup against Stanford, twisting his ankle and then limping off the field. As he lay on the field, he punched himself in the thigh and seemed to be in extreme pain. Fortunately for the redshirt sophomore from St. Petersburg, Florida, he has only a sprained ankle, and not an extremely serious sprain, according to Kelly.
"We'll see how things play out during the week," he said. "We'll probably have to be careful with (Jones) during the week, but we expect him to play (against Virginia Tech) with Dexter (Williams)."
With Armstrong out and Jones potentially limited, more of the running back load will fall to Williams, who had 161 yards on 21 carries in his first game of the season Saturday. Converted quarterback Avery Davis and true freshman Jahmir Smith also seem likely to have expanded roles going forward.