Notre Dame WR Kevin Stepherson, RB C.J. Holmes suspended after shoplifting arrest

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

Notre Dame signed 20 players in the 2018 class on Wednesday.

Then, the Irish lost two current players — at least for the time being — and a third for the upcoming Citrus Bowl because of an injury.

Sophomore wide receiver Kevin Stepherson and freshman running back C.J. Holmes were arrested for allegedly shoplifting at University Park Mall in Mishawaka last Friday, according to a police report.

Stepherson and Holmes have been suspended indefinitely from all football-related activities, head coach Brian Kelly announced Wednesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, a source confirmed to the Tribune that freshman tight end Brock Wright suffered a shoulder injury in practice Saturday, underwent surgery Tuesday and will miss the Jan. 1 Citrus Bowl matchup between No. 14 ND (9-3) and 16th-ranked LSU (9-3).

According to the police report, an officer working at University Park Mall on Friday evening received a report from mall security of a possible shoplifting at Macy’s. Loss prevention employees reportedly witnessed Stepherson and Holmes enter the changing room and conceal clothing, then attempt to leave the store.

Police stopped Stepherson and Holmes and recovered a pair of grey Nautica sweatpants, worth $59.50, that Stepherson was wearing, as well as a $79.50 grey Nautica sweatshirt that Holmes had put in his shopping bag. Police notified the pair of their proxy arrest and released them from the scene.

The case has been forwarded to the St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s Office for a final decision on filing formal charges.

Stepherson — a 6-foot-1, 185-pound wide receiver from Jacksonville, Fla. — caught 19 passes for 359 yards and five touchdowns this season, despite sitting out the first four games for disciplinary reasons. He has 44 catches for 821 yards and 10 touchdowns in less than two full seasons in South Bend.

Stepherson's struggles, in a tumultuous start to his Irish career, have not come on the field. The former Jacksonville First Coast High School standout was arrested in Fulton County in Aug. 2016 for possession of marijuana, a Class A misdemeanor. He pleaded guilty and was granted a conditional discharge in June.

Additionally, Kelly would neither confirm nor deny in August that Stepherson was serving a suspension. He was relegated to the practice squad throughout much of fall camp and did not appear in Notre Dame's first four games.

“I think it’s pretty easy to point out his athletic skills,” Kelly said of Stepherson in late October. “We’ve never questioned those. This has been about having the right traits, not the talent. And he’s starting to really get that.

“And as he continues to show more of that, you’re going to see more and more of him on the field.”

A 6-foot, 208-pound running back, Holmes signed with Notre Dame in February and played in eight games this season, recording eight carries for 32 yards.

It's likely that both Stepherson — a starting Irish wide receiver — and Holmes will miss Notre Dame's Citrus Bowl matchup. Another starting wide receiver, sophomore Chase Claypool, was already set to miss the game after suffering a shoulder injury in practice last week.

Stepherson and Claypool combined for 48 catches, 761 receiving yards and seven touchdowns this season.

Wright didn't have any catches this season, but he was used as a blocking fullback in goal-line and short-yardage situations. He saw action in 11 of ND's 12 regular-season games.

On Wednesday, Notre Dame signed two 2018 wide receivers, Kevin Austin and Micah Jones. Another Irish wide receiver target, former ND and Oregon verbal commit Braden Lenzy, is expected to sign with either Notre Dame or Oregon on Friday.

Kelly is scheduled to meet the media following Notre Dame's practice on Thursday afternoon.

South Bend Tribune reporters Caleb Bauer and Eric Hansen contributed to this report.

Notre Dame’s Kevin Stepherson (29) runs in a touchdown during the Notre Dame-Navy NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN