The depleted Irish ranks will be getting reinforcements for their Jan. 1 bowl game against Ohio State.
Senior defensive tackle Jarron Jones, lost before the season started to a torn MCL, is expected to resume practice Thursday, according to head coach Brian Kelly. Durham Smythe, the team’s starting tight end, is also progressing well after surgery to repair a torn MCL in his right knee and a second procedure on his shoulder.
Jones’ hulking presence at nose guard has been missed as the Irish rotated among sophomore Daniel Cage, freshman Jerry Tillery and moving defensive end Isaac Rochell to plug the middle. Tillery and Cage suffered injuries that caused both to miss time, although both played during the regular season finale at Stanford.
Smythe was considered the front runner to replace Ben Koyack as the Irish’s top tight end. He caught just two passes – although one was for a touchdown – before exiting during the Virginia game. Freshman Alize Jones, sophomore Nic Weishar, sophomore Tyler Luatua and fifth year senior Chase Hounshell all logged snaps at tight end, with Jones leading all ends with 11 catches.
“He’s got full strength,” Kelly said Sunday regarding Smythe. “We expect him to be a solid contributor for us, and he is cleared to practice immediately.”
In addition, Kelly said C.J. Prosise – who led all Irish backs with 1,032 yards – has had his cast removed after suffering a high ankle sprain suffered during the penultimate regular season game. Kelly said:
He’s moving around. We’ll have to see how he continues to progress. We expect him to be ready, but he’ll be a process of moving him and getting him to the level that we need to get him.
James Onwualu, who suffered a second-degree MCL sprain in his left knee during the final home game versus Wake Forest, is also expected to be available to play.
Junior running back Tarean Folston and sophomore safety Drue Tranquil, rehabilitating from torn ligaments in their knees, remain out, as does junior QB Malik Zaire, who broke his ankle in the team’s second game and senior cornerback KeiVarae Russell, who broke his tibia against Boston College.
To read the entire transcript of Brian Kelly’s Sunday news conference, visit UND.com.