Senior guard Christian Lombard fights off USC defenders during Notre Dame's 14-10 win Saturday. He is out for the season after undergoing back surgery Wednesday.
Nix suffered a shoulder injury against USC, but Kelly said knee tendinitis will keep him from traveling to Colorado Springs, Colo., for the team’s matchup with Air Force on Saturday. Nix did not practice this week, but Kelly said he is hopeful he will play Nov. 2 versus Navy, another triple option offense. Senior defensive lineman Kona Schwenke will start in his place.
“He’s moving around pretty good,” Kelly said. “He just wasn’t able to take any reps and we’re playing an option team and to throw him in there without really being able to engage the way you need those guys to be engaged, it doesn’t make any sense to play him.”
Lombard underwent a discectomy Wednesday to repair a herniated disc in his back. Kelly said a four-centimeter herniation was removed. (The surgery is similar to the one Kelly underwent during the summer of 2012.) Freshman Steve Elmer takes over as a starter and lineman Conor Hanratty will back up Elmer.
“[Elmer] is a better game player than he is a practice player,” Kelly said. “He has a unique sense of the game for a young kid. Picks up things that occur in a game that you just react to. He has a knack of sensing and feeling things in the game that you really can’t teach. Practice sometimes, the best way I can put it is he knows enough to be dangerous and then in the game he [furthers] that fact with doing some things that he looks like a 10-year veteran. He’s a really unique kid in that sense.”
The positive injury news for Notre Dame that Kelly provided is that Rees “had a good week of practice,” and will start at Air Force.
“Having that continuity at the quarterback position [during practices on] Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday is always good for the unit,” Kelly said. “Last year was kind of a off and on situation with [Everett Golson] being injured at times. It was never really a good flow for our offense, so it was good to have Tommy out there. He took all the first-team reps today and looked really good.”
In addition to taking all the first-team reps Thursday, Rees received 25 percent Tuesday and more Wednesday, Kelly said. Backup senior quarterback Andrew Hendrix received more first-team reps than he ever has on a Wednesday, per Kelly. Freshman quarterback Malik Zaire “got more [first-team] reps than he’s gotten all year.
• Sophomore safety Elijah Shumate will travel with the team this weekend, but will only be used in an injury situation. He did not play against USC because of a hamstring injury. Junior Matthias Farley and senior Austin Collinsworth will start at the safety positions.
• Sophomore defensive end Jarron Jones traveled home to Rochester, N.Y., on Thursday after a death in the family. Kelly said he will attend a funeral service and then be put on a plane to Colorado Springs.
• The team practiced indoors Thursday with a high of 43 degrees outside with some intermittent rain. The weather is expected to be much nicer Saturday at Air Force, with no rain and a high of 60 degrees.