SOUTH BEND — Julian Okwara won’t get to put the finishes touches on a season for which he felt was worth deferring his NFL dream.
Notre Dame head football coach Brian Kelly announced Sunday on his weekly teleconference that the senior defensive end and captain has played his last game for the 16th-ranked Irish (7-2), after suffering a season-ending fibula fracture Saturday night in a 38-7 rout of Duke.
“I feel terrible for him,” Kelly said of the 6-foot-5, 248-pounder. “He will have a procedure done here once we’ve figured out all the specifics.”
Okwara finishes the 2019 season with 18 tackles, including six for losses with four sacks. He garnered seven quarterback hurries and a fumble recovery, forced two fumbles and blocked a kick.
Despite a senior season that was statistically quieter than his breakthrough junior year, Okwara is considered a possible first- or second-round selection for next spring’s NFL Draft.
The Irish lost another standout end, senior Daelin Hayes, to a season-ending shoulder injury in a 35-20 win over Virginia on Sept. 28. But Hayes’ injury came early enough in the season where he still had the option to redshirt. Hayes has confirmed he’ll do just that.
Senior Jamir Jones is expected to take over Okwara’s starting spot.
The Irish face AP No. 21 Navy (7-1) Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium.
• ND will also be without sophomore Jack Lamb for the rest of the season, Kelly confirmed Sunday, due to a torn muscle in his hip/glute area. Lamb suffered the injury Nov. 2 against Virginia Tech, but the severity wasn’t known early last week when Kelly was asked about it.
The 6-4, 233-pound Lamb played in ND’s specialty third down “dime” package. He had seven tackles on the season, including two for losses with a sack. He also forced a fumble and recovered one.
• Sophomore backup wide receivers Braden Lenzy and Joe Wilkins each missed the Duke trip because of injuries, Kelly said. Lenzy is suffering from fatigue, while Wilkins has a hamstring injury. Kelly hoped to get both back this week for Navy.