Irish junior Austin Collinsworth is expected to miss at least the majority of the football season after surgery this month to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder.
Irish junior Austin Collinsworth makes one of his 16 special teams tackles last fall.
Notre Dame confirmed that the safety is expected to be on the shelf for the next four to six months while recovering. Collinsworth, who has played predominantly on special teams this year, was expected to be a major contributor in the Irish secondary. Collinsworth reportedly injured the shoulder during Notre Dame's Blue-Gold scrimmage on April 21.
While not projected as a starter this season, Notre Dame planned to use Collinsworth to add some much-needed depth and versatility to the thin secondary. The converted wide receiver had an impressive second spring with the defense, giving coaches enough confidence to test run starting safety Jamoris Slaughter at various spots to make the secondary stronger.
"You do that, as you know, when you’ve got another safety,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said this spring. “We’re really pleased with Collinsworth. Obviously, that allows us now to look at some cross training and making sure that we get the best four players on the field.”
Slaughter, one of Notre Dame's most versatile athletes, had the potential to play as an outside linebacker in certain packages or as a cornerback if the untested players at that position struggled early in the year. Without another safety that has a strong grasp on how to orchestrate the defense, Slaughter will likely need to stay put for most of the year.
Numbers are not a major issue for Notre Dame at safety, but game-ready talent is currently a question mark. The Irish will likely look for fifth-year senior Dan McCarthy and senior Chris Salvi to help fill the void immediately. Six new safeties — four incoming freshmen, redshirt freshman Eilar Hardy and Chris Badger, who returned from an 18-month Mormon mission this summer — will also get a shot to play during fall camp.
Collinsworth made a team-high 16 tackles on special teams last year showing off an innate nose for the ball. He struggled to learn the defensive scheme in his first season on that side of the ball, but coaches said he was feeling much more comfortable heading into this offseason.
"He’s always had it," Elliott said about the junior's defensive instincts. "He’s just a feisty dude. He likes to play."