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Notre Dame Injury Update: Hayes’ season over; Crawford out 3-4 weeks

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 14 New Mexico at Notre Dame

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 14: Notre Dame Fighting Irish defensive lineman Daelin Hayes (9) tackles New Mexico Lobos quarterback Sheriron Jones (4) during the second quarter of the college football game between the New Mexico Lobos and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on September 14, 2019, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, IN.(Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Notre Dame’s defensive end depth will now become a necessity. The No. 9 Irish (3-1) have lost senior defensive end Daelin Hayes for the season with a torn labrum, head coach Brian Kelly said Sunday. Hayes dealt with injuries to that shoulder as a senior in high school, as well.

Since the injury occurred in only Notre Dame’s fourth game, Hayes will preserve a year of eligibility and could theoretically return for a fifth season in 2020. Kelly described that as “highly possible.”

Hayes finishes 2019 with six tackles, including three for loss with one sack, and one fumble recovery.

Without him, the Irish still have top-tier defensive end talent — headlined by the senior trio of Julian Okwara, Khalid Kareem and Ade Ogundjei — but a hole does appear where Hayes had been. With him on the second unit, there was hardly any drop off, if any at all, when Kareem went to the sideline, keeping both fresh. On certain passing downs, both Kareem and Hayes would be on the field, one of them bumping inside and the two often exchanging in stunts.

The most obvious candidate to fill those voids is senior Jamir Jones, though Notre Dame has — at least until now — vague plans of playing him in no more than four games to retain a season of eligibility for him and bring him back in 2020. Those were vague both because they necessitated Jones’ buy-in and because injuries happen.

“We’re going to have to see what Daelin Hayes’ situation is, to be quite frank with you,” Kelly said Saturday of those Jones thoughts. “We are here to win this year and we’ll figure it out from there.”

In the 35-20 victory against No. 18 Virginia, Jones had two tackles with one sack that forced a fumble which led to a tide-turning touchdown. Other options for depth include freshmen Isaiah Foskey, Howard Cross and Hunter Spears, each of whom has appeared in only one game thus far. Sophomore Justin Ademiloloa could also see more action, with no eligibility concerns inhibiting his playing time since he did not burn a season as a freshman.

Fifth-year cornerback Shaun Crawford will miss 3-4 weeks, per Kelly, after dislocating his elbow against the Cavaliers. To some degree, this is a relief considering Crawford has already suffered three season-ending injuries in his Irish career.

He has 12 tackles and one interception in four starts this season. Without him, the Irish will lean on sophomore TaRiq Bracy more and more. The two have already been splitting the role, at times to keep Crawford a bit fresher and at times simply to have more defensive backs on hand to make life more difficult for opposing quarterbacks in certain passing situations.

“Bracy and Crawford together have done a really nice job,” Kelly said a week ago after Bracy broke up two passes at No. 3 Georgia, including one in the end zone. “... [Bracy] had a really nice game for us and continues to get better for us each and every week.”

Kelly also pointed to junior rover Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah as a key piece to surviving without Crawford for a month. The veteran defensive back brings a physicality, despite his 5-foot-9 frame, befitting replacement by a linebacker, and Owusu-Koramoah has improving coverage skills to aid the cause.

“He’s talented, he can play man-to-man, he can blitz off the edge,” Kelly said. “The first order of business is to get him in a position where he can take some of those reps from third down.”

In very clear passing situations, though, those ones when Bracy and Crawford may have both been on the field, Kelly has not identified the reserve to be activated.

“We have to be able to get somebody that can play in some more specialized defensive structures,” Kelly said.

Crawford’s freshman season ended before it began with a torn ACL. He then tore his Achilles in the second game of 2016, his sophomore year. Crawford shined in the first half of 2017 before the conditioning effects of those two injuries slowed him in October and November. He then tore his other ACL days before the 2018 opener.

The senior receiver clearly struggled with an aggravated ankle Saturday, but Kelly said it is not a high ankle sprain and “should not affect him this week in practice.” It is not the same ankle Claypool had minor surgery on this past offseason.