SOUTH BEND — Two captains. Two serious injuries.
At least the one suffered by Notre Dame grad senior Drue Tranquil Saturday night against Stanford — a fractured hand — won’t push him to the sidelines, for now.
Offensive guard Alex Bars doesn’t appear to be so fortunate. The grad senior, and arguably ND’s best offensive lineman, suffered a knee injury in the third quarter of ND’s 38-17 conquest of Stanford at Notre Dame Stadium.
Although testing as of Sunday afternoon was not conclusive, Irish head coach Brian Kelly said the team doctors feared the worst with possible damage to the ACL and MCL in Bars’ left knee. Kelly expects the 6-foot-6, 315-pound Bars to be lost long term, if not for the season.
“Devastating for us,” Kelly said Sunday, “because we're losing a captain, and we're losing somebody that is respected and revered by so many in the program. 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.”
Senior Trevor Ruhland (6-4, 295), who came in for Bars on Saturday night, will get a look there as a long-term solution. So will sophomore Aaron Banks (6-6, 319), who had been backing up at right tackle.
“We don't have to alter our game plan or calls when Trevor's in,” Kelly said. “He's very reliable. He doesn't have the size, necessarily, as Alex does, but he brings some other strengths to the position.
“But you're going to see Banks in there as well. We're going to give him an opportunity. He's been playing really well.”
As for Tranquill, Kelly said the injured hand will be placed in cast. The fractured metacarpal won’t need surgery “at this time.”
Tranquill is ND’s second-leading tackler, with 35, at a position where experienced depth is practically non-existent. He has four tackles for loss, including a sack, two pass breakups and a QB hurry.
The Irish (5-0), up to No. 6 in the AP poll released on Sunday, visit No. 24 Virginia Tech (3-1) on Saturday.