As is typically the case at Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish football program is never devoid of eye-popping headlines and, often, unfortunate pieces of news in the eyes of the fans.
Life was no different for the Fighting Irish faithful this week, as they were shellacked with a handful of negative news nuggets during head coach Brian Kelly's weekly meeting with the media.
There were two main concerns on the docket this week—more injuries and the announcement of two transfers.
Having transferred from USC prior to the 2012 season, running back Amir Carlisle successfully petitioned the NCAA gain immediate eligibility, but suffered a serious ankle injury that sidelined him for all 13 games of the Irish's campaign.
The injury bug wasn't dead, though, as it bit him once again, this time in the form of a broken collarbone suffered during the Irish's first practice in full pads on Saturday.
Originally thought to be of the devastating variety, it has been reported that Carlisle's collarbone will only require a four-week recovery period, meaning that the 5'10", 185-pound back will miss the Blue Gold Game on Apr. 20.
Carlisle is expected to fill the role of the hybrid running back/wide receiver that former starter Theo Riddick filled last season.
Joining Carlisle on the injury list is defensive end Chase Hounshell, who was greeted with devastating news for the second time in as many years.
Keith Arnold of NBCSports.com reports that Hounshell has torn the same labrum for a second consecutive year, meaning that the 6'4", 275-pound end will miss the entirety of the 2013 season.
What Hounshell's absence means for the defensive end position is that Tony Springmann and Jarron Jones will receive even more reps than originally expected. Incoming freshman Isaac Rochell is a candidate to receive minutes, though a redshirt season is still the expectation for him.
With the graduation of former starting slot receiver Robby Toma, the position was in need of a new starter, with 2012's starting punt returner Davonte' Neal expected to be the man for the job.
However, it has been announced that Neal is no longer with the program, and will be transferring to a school closer to his home in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Neal is the proud father of a six-week-old daughter Baylee with his longtime girlfriend Marie Burton. His desire to be closer to them was the impetus behind his decision.
Blue and Gold Illustrated's Jason Sapp, who spoke with Neal's father, first reported the story.
“The reason for Davonte’s transfer is that he’s the father of a six-week old baby girl (Baylee) with his girlfriend (Marie Burton) that he has dated since seventh grade. The plan was to move his girlfriend and his baby to South Bend, but Davonte’ just felt the need to be closer to his family and his girlfriend’s family at this time.
“It’s a situation that I’ve been talking to Davonte’ about the past four months, and he’s finally realized he wants to be involved in his daughter’s life closer than from a distance at Notre Dame.”
First and foremost, fans should be wishing Neal well, as he is placing his family first, which is a mature decision for a college freshman to make. Personally, I wish Neal nothing but the best.
In football terms, Neal's absence has forced Kelly to elevate sophomore C.J. Prosise, who played safety last season, to the top of the depth chart at slot receiver. Behind Prosise is true freshman and early-enrollee James Onwualu.
How the inexperience will affect the slot receiver position, as well as the offense as a whole, remains to be seen. However, fans can take solace in Kelly's "next man in philosophy."
A fellow receiver, Justin Ferguson, has also decided to transfer, though the reason(s) behind his decision seem to be unclear, per a report from Blue and Gold Illustrated, which spoke with Ferguson's father, Jason.
“It’s more of a level of comfort. He didn’t provide specific reasons like playing time or anything because he hasn’t even come home yet since deciding, but I’ve been working with him through his feelings as well. I’m not pressuring him to stay. He talked to Coach (Brian) Kelly and he says he’s sure of his decision and Coach Kelly knows of his intentions.”
That "level of comfort" which the elder Ferguson speaks of seems to be an indirect way of admitting that his son's place on the receiver depth chart seemed to be in a state of uncertainty.
It was unlikely that Justin would break through the rotation in 2013, meaning another season on the bench for the Pembroke Pines, Fla., native.