A return to game action for Notre Dame wide receiver Kevin Austin Jr. may be delayed.
On Monday, the Irish football program announced Austin, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound junior, suffered a fractured bone in his left foot last Wednesday. The injury required surgery Monday to repair the fifth metatarsal, the longest bone in the smallest toe.
The release from Notre Dame said Austin is expected to return to action this fall, but it did not specify a timetable for his recovery. With that limited information and no date announced for Notre Dame’s season opener, it’s unclear how many games Austin could miss.
Former Notre Dame basketball star Bonzie Colson suffered an injury that was described similarly in his senior season in 2018. He was sidelined for two months. Irish defensive tackle Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa also suffered a fractured fifth metatarsal in the 2018 season opener. He was unable to play the rest of the regular season.
The severity of those injuries to Austin, Colson and Tagovailoa-Amosa may have varied. The recovery time can as well.
Austin missed his entire sophomore season due to suspension, but his former teammates raved about what he did in practice last year.
“He would go out and make some incredible plays that make you say, ‘Wow, what I would give to have him on the field,’” former Irish defensive end Khalid Kareem said at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. “He’s going to have a really great season this year.”
Fellow wide receiver Chase Claypool also offered a bold prediction at the combine.
“Kevin Austin is going to be a star,” Claypool said. “I’ve been saying it all along. He’s a super good player.”
Austin, who caught five passes for 90 yards in his 2018 freshman season, provided a glimpse of that in Notre Dame’s only practice of the spring on March 5.
“Well, he’s always had the talent,” head coach Brian Kelly said after that practice. “He’s obviously doing things right both on and off the field. His development has been one that we’re really pleased with.
“That’s why you’re seeing a lot more of him on a day like today.”
With the NFL departures of Claypool and Chris Finke and the transfer of Michael Young, the Irish lost 113 of the 158 catches made by wide receivers last season. The 45 returning receptions went to junior Lawrence Keys III (13), grad student Javon McKinley (11), junior Braden Lenzy (11) and senior Avery Davis (10).
Notre Dame did add experience and production with a grad transfer from Northwestern’s Ben Skowronek. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Skowronek totaled 110 receptions for 1,417 yards and eight touchdowns in four seasons with the Wildcats.
Last month, offensive coordinator Tommy Rees said he was excited about Notre Dame’s depth at the wide receiver position. Without Austin to start the season, that depth will be tested.
“You look at our receiver group, and it’s probably as deep as it’s been in our three years here,” Rees said in July. “You look at our receiver group, there’s a lot of people in there that excite you and that you know you can rely on. Now it’s time for a lot of them to go out there and show it.”