Reserve WR Keys opts out of the balance of Notre Dame's football season

Eric Hansen
ND Insider
Departing wide receiver Lawrence Keys III tracks a pass during Notre Dame football practice Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021, at the LaBar Practice Complex. He is no longer in the Irish roster.

SOUTH BEND — On a day of attrition, caused mostly by injuries, the decision of wide receiver Lawrence Keys III to voluntarily leave the Notre Dame football roster Thursday, two days before the eighth-ranked Irish play their home opener, is particularly curious.

More impactful will be the loss of starting left tackle Blake Fisher for eight weeks (knee meniscus tear) and rotational linebacker Shayne Simon for the season (torn labrum in shoulder), both of whom underwent surgery on Thursday.

The Irish (1-0) host Toledo (1-0) Saturday at 2:30 p.m. EDT (Peacock streaming).

Keys is a senior academically, who played five snaps without a pass thrown to him in a reserve role in Sunday night’s season-opening, 41-38 overtime victory at Florida State. 

“Lawrence Keys is no longer on our roster,” Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly confirmed Thursday during a Zoom call with the media. “Lawrence has chosen to pursue finishing up his degree.

“In my conversation with our academic coordinator, who handles those matters, I think (Keys) is taking 18 hours this semester, which would allow him to get his degree this semester. And then he’s going to evaluate what he wants to do after that — whether football’s in the cards for him or not.”

The Florida State game was the 21st game Keys had played in during his ND career. He leaves with 18 career catches for 185 yards with no TDs, 45 rushing yards on six carries, 10 kickoff returns for 194 yards and three punt returns for three yards.

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The 5-foot-10, 176-pound New Orleans product redshirted as a freshman in 2018 and can also claim last season as another year to recover if he transfers because of the NCAA’s blanket COVID-19 exemption in 2020.

That would give him potentially two years of eligibility at another school if he transfers. Had he stayed and played out the rest of the season, Keys would also have two years max at another school.

On Thursday, Kelly also announced sophomore wide receiver Xavier Watts would move to rover to bolster an injury-diluted linebacker corps. That move and Keys’ departure leaves the Irish with seven wide receivers.

Follow ND Insider Eric Hansen on Twitter: @ehansenNDI