SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame will begin fall camp with some good news and bad news from the sick bay.
Senior linebacker Jarrett Grace, who underwent two procedures on a broken knee suffered last October, is "close to being ready" when the 2014 season kicks off later this month, coach Brian Kelly said Friday. The bad news, though, is defensive lineman Tony Springmann's career is over due to a lingering back issue.
Springmann tore his ACL during fall camp last August and worked his way back from that injury, but his back issue was severe enough to keep him off the field. Notre Dame won't lose the Fort Wayne native's presence around the team, though, despite his injury.
"He'll still stay involved in the program," Kelly said. "Tony has done a great job of mentoring a lot of our younger players in the program, he's shown great leadership, great resolve coming back from his knee injury. He'll stay connected with our program and still be part of us."
With Springmann out of the equation, Notre Dame will rely on a pair of freshmen to back up Jarron Jones at nose guard. Kelly is confident in Pete Mokwuah and Daniel Cage there, though, given both weigh in at over 300 pounds.
Kelly said Grace's return to the Irish defense is key, with his experience and skill a significant addition to an inside linebacker corps featuring senior Joe Schmidt and freshman Nyles Morgan.
"We think he's in a position now where he's running and it's going to be for us a wait and see process," Kelly said, "but he is so much closer than we ever thought he could be as we go into the month of August."
In other injury news, Kelly lauded the work put in by center Nick Martin and linebacker Ben Councell to return healthy from knee injuries suffered last November. Tight end Ben Koyack underwent offseason shoulder surgery but is good to go for fall camp. Offensive lineman Christian Lombard is healthy after dislocating his right wrist in spring practice, too.
Tight end Mike Heuerman underwent hernia surgery last month and will miss about a month, Kelly said. Expect freshman Tyler Luatua to slide up the depth chart behind Ben Koyack and Durham Smythe with Heuerman out.