With Grace out, Irish inexperienced at ILB

With Grace out, Irish inexperienced at ILB
October 6, 2013, 5:15 pm
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DALLAS -- Jarrett Grace underwent surgery Sunday morning in the Dallas area, and will remain around north Texas for the next few days until he's deemed ready to fly back to South Bend.

His recovery time from a broken tibia suffered in Notre Dame's 37-34 win over Arizona State is four to six months, coach Brian Kelly said Sunday. It ended his 2013 season, and the recovery timetable could keep him out of spring practice as well.

Kelly talked with Grace Sunday and said "his spirits are good," and that his family made it to Dallas to be with him earlier in the day. But for Notre Dame's immediate future, they'll have to find a way to fill out the depth chart at both inside linebacker positions now that Grace is out of the picture until next fall.

[More: Irish rally around injuries to Grace, Smith]

Three players are expected to move up into increased roles, in order: Senior Kendall Moore, junior (and former walk-on) Joe Schmidt, and freshman Michael Deeb. Senior Dan Fox, too, will move back into the starting role he held to begin the season.

"Certainly you're losing somebody that we had counted on as a starter," Kelly said, "so now you're deep into your depth and that wasn't an area with a lot of experience."

Moore has the most experience there, but his snaps have been limited since he first saw the field in 2011. Schmidt, like Moore, mainly has played on special teams. Deeb, rated as a three-star recruit out of American Heritage High School in Plantation, Fla., is deeper down the depth chart but will merit a look during Notre Dame's bye week.

[More: Defined by 2012 success, Irish look the part vs. ASU]

One player that won't step in for Grace, at least in Notre Dame's dime package -- in which Grace generally was the only linebacker on the field -- is freshman Jaylon Smith. The freshman topped Notre Dame with eight tackles against Arizona State, and Kelly said he doesn't anticipate moving him off the 'dog' outside position at all this year.

"One of the things we won't do is we will not change his eyes in terms of where he's going to play," Kelly said. "He's going to play on the perimeter of our defense, so how he looks at the football game will be outside‑in, not inside‑out."