No hearings yet for frozen five; Nicky Baratti out for season at Notre Dame

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — On a day when the Notre Dame football team pushed into the Associated Press top 10 for the first time since ending the 2012 season No. 4, the feel-good vibe was tempered by some not-so-good news and a seemingly stunning non-development.

The ninth-ranked Irish (3-0), fresh off a 30-14 victory over Purdue Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium, head into a bye week with mostly good injury news from a game that depleted their roster temporarily.

The exception was backup safety Nicky Baratti, who injured his right shoulder on the first and only play he participated in Saturday night and is now lost for the season.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said Sunday that Baratti will undergo season-ending surgery this week – the third time in the past two years he’s had a procedure performed on one shoulder or the other.

As for hopes for reinforcements from the suspended ranks, the ongoing academic fraud investigation process advances into its 49th day Monday with no timetable for a resolution and this surprising detail from ND head coach Brian Kelly on Sunday.

None of the five players has gone through the hearing process before an honesty committee as of Friday. The committees will ultimately determine the players’ fates, though there is an appeals process open to all, with a seven-day window to exercise it.

Three starters — cornerback KeiVarae Russell, defensive end Ishaq Williams and wide receiver DaVaris Daniels — as well as backup linebacker Kendall Moore, have been held out of practices and games since Aug. 15, 17 days after the probe began.

Backup safety Eilar Hardy joined those four in limbo on Aug. 28.

The injury news for many of the other Irish players was much more optimistic than Baratti’s prognosis. The most serious of the rest, an MCL (knee) injury to wide receiver/kickoff returner Amir Carlisle, doesn’t appear to be enough to keep him out of ND’s next game — Sept. 27 vs. Syracuse (2-0) in East Rutherford, N.J.

“We'll know a little bit more on him when we get the MRI results,” Kelly said. “Met with the doctors today, and they had their hands on him. They felt pretty confident that this is not a severe knee injury.”

Cornerback Cole Luke (head), defensive end Andrew Trumbetti (head/chest/neck) and offensive guard Christian Lombard (ankle) are all expected back at practice this week, per Kelly.

Sophomore wide receiver Torii Hunter Jr., on track to make his collegiate debut against Syracuse, will get a long look at the slot receiver position this week. Hunter missed last season recovering from a broken leg and has been out this season since Aug. 5 with a groin injury.

Senior Jarrett Grace, out since last Oct. 5 with four fractures in his right leg, is responding well to acupuncture treatments, said Kelly, but is not on a timetable that would have him ready to contribute by the Syracuse game.

“He's still not getting that full strike with his foot biomechanically,” Kelly said of the former starter at middle linebacker. “It's not the leg. It's more the ankle right now.

“I think we are getting close. We are just not there yet.”

Grad student Austin Collinsworth, a projected starter at strong safety before suffering a knee injury two days before the Aug. 30 season opener, is possible, but not yet probable, to make his season debut against Syracuse.

As for Baratti, after undergoing two surgeries on his left shoulder, this will be the first on his right. His first surgery cost him spring practice in 2013 and a second surgery, a more extensive procedure for a dislocation, wiped out his entire 2013 season.

Baratti suffered a dislocation of the right shoulder in the Blue-Gold intrasquad game last April, but avoided surgery that time and wore a protective harness instead.

A key reserve as a freshman in 2012, Baratti made only two cameos in 2014 and did not record a tackle before his season ended.

As for the polls, the Irish also moved from No. 11 to No. 9 in the Amway coaches poll. Four of ND’s final nine opponents are ranked in the top 17 of the AP poll this week, led by No. 1 Florida State.

“It's so hard to tell who is top 10 to top 15,” said Kelly, a coaches poll voter. “So we are really starting from where the season began and you're slotting based upon winning and teams losing. We're just kind of playing the numbers game right now.

“But I really like the potential of this football team. It's a young team that is learning and getting better. I think just two seniors (with no 2015 eligibility), one on offense and one on defense, (started) last night (Ben Koyack and Cody Riggs). So I think the potential is as high as any team that I've had here at Notre Dame.”

Looking ahead

• There comes a tipping point in each season when the potential of a freshman who hasn’t yet seen game action is outweighed by the value of preserving a year of eligibility.

Kelly is not yet to that point with defensive linemen Jay Hayes and Jhonny Williams, the latter a Berrien Spring High product.

“Certainly, I have used the standard all along, that we are not going to use a freshman unless they can contribute to our success as a football team,” Kelly said. “The guys that are closest to being able to help us are the situational designated pass-rush types. Can he (Johnny Williams) help us win football games this year? He's close to being able to do that.”

Kelly said if the Irish had lost one more defensive lineman to injury Saturday night, Williams would have played against Purdue.

“So I think that that's probably going to be the case all year, that Jhonny's going to be a guy that we need to keep ready to go, because he's that close to being able to help us and get on the field,” Kelly said. “Where some other guys that may be a little bit further behind, we may not put in the game regardless of the situation.”

• Monday remains the earliest day in the window Notre Dame will learn from ABC/ESPN about its kickoff time for the Syracuse game.

• The 2015 Shamrock Series game, the seventh such off-site home game, will be played against Boston College on Nov. 21 at Fenway Park in Boston. It will be the first football game played at Fenway Park since Dec. 1, 1968, when the Boston Patriots beat the Cincinnati Bengals, 33-14.

Notable numbers

• Notre Dame is one of 27 teams sharing the national lead in red-zone offense at a 100 percent conversion rate. The Irish are 14-for 14 in the red zone this year, scoring on each of their last 23 red-zone chances since a fourth-quarter interception against BYU in 2013.

The Irish have finished higher than 70th nationally in that category only once in Kelly’s four seasons at ND, that coming in 2010 when ND was 49th. Last season the Irish were 77th among 123 FBS teams.

• After starting off 1-3 in his first four games against the Big Ten while at ND, Kelly is now 12-4 against the league’s current 14 members, with Northwestern still to come this season

That total includes wins over Maryland in 2011 and Rutgers in 2013 before they officially played their first game as a Big Ten member. The Irish don’t play a Big Ten team in 2015.

• Irish quarterback Everett Golson has passed for at least 200 yards in each of his last eight games played. The last Irish quarterback to accomplish that feat was Jimmy Clausen in the final eight games of the 2009 season.

• Coupled with Texas’ 20-17 loss to UCLA on Saturday night, Notre Dame’s victory over Purdue allowed the Irish to reclaim sole possession for the No. 2 spot in all-time wins among FBS schools with 877.

The Irish lead in all-time winning percentage, overtaking Michigan in that department last season.

ehansen@ndinsider.com

574-235-6112

A right shoulder injury has truncated Notre Dame safety Nicky Baratti's season for the second year in a row. Baratti suffered the season-ending injury Saturday in a 30-14 Irish win over Purdue. (SBT Photo/GREG SWIERCZ)