During his Thursday afternoon press conference, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly updated the injury status for star safety Kyle Hamilton and starting wide receiver Ben Skowronek.
HAMILTON IS DAY-TO-DAY - WHAT IT MEANS
Hamilton had his lower leg rolled up on during the 27-13 season-opening victory over Duke, and the star sophomore safety did not return to the game. Kelly said that Hamilton is still listed as day-to-day after previously saying he would be in a boot at least through Wednesday.
This means if Hamilton does play on Saturday he will be less than 100%, which enhances the opportunity for aggravation of his ankle injury.
Notre Dame's staff has a choice, either push Hamilton to get ready to play on Saturday, knowing he'll be less than 100%, or choose to keep him out and go with other players. It would be wise to keep Hamilton out of practice the next two days and keep him out against the Bulls, giving him three additional days to heal his ankle and also limiting the chance of further aggravation.
With Wake Forest coming up next weekend, followed by a bye week, getting Hamilton healthy over the next week would go a long way towards keeping his ankle from becoming a season-long problem. If Notre Dame was getting ready to play Louisville or Clemson, perhaps then you force the issue, but against a team like South Florida there's just no reason to run him out there and risk further problems with the ankle.
This could actually be a great opportunity for Notre Dame, who should be able to still handily beat the Bulls, even without their star safety. Building up the safety depth chart is an absolute must, and keeping Hamilton out gives Notre Dame an opportunity to get junior Houston Griffith the reps he desperately needs. Getting Griffith up to speed at safety could pay huge dividends for the Irish defense not just down the road, but in the immediate future.
SKOWRONEK OUT THIS WEEKEND - WHAT IT MEANS
Skowronek injured his hamstring during the second half of Saturday's victory, and according to Kelly he has been ruled out for the upcoming matchup against South Florida.
Earlier in the week Kelly said that senior Javon McKinley would move into the boundary position, which could be significant for the offense. McKinley's skillset is far better suited for the boundary, and getting him going early in the game with quick throws, sideline routes and back shoulders/comebacks could give the offense a shot in the arm.
With McKinley now sliding into Skowronek's spot, and junior Braden Lenzy set to return after missing the opener with a hamstring injury, the receiver depth chart will have a different look to it on Saturday.
How this impacts Joe Wilkins Jr. should be interesting. Wilkins performed well off the bench when Skowronek went down, playing the boundary position for much of his snaps. Wilkins could certainly handle that, but his game is better suited for the field positions. Will he be thrust into a boundary role with Skowronek out, or will he move around and get time at all three positions?
Even with Lenzy back, the move of McKinley to the boundary should be the push the staff needs to get a young player like Xavier Watts teed up for action this weekend.
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