Notre Dame lost one of its veteran players over the weekend when linebacker Danny Spond gave up football due to medical reasons, according to Matt Fortuna of ESPN. Spond, a starter last season, missed playing time early in the year for a case of severe migraines.
-UPDATE- Wednesday, August 21
It turns out Spond suffered “another paralyzing migraine early in fall camp,” that forced him to quit the game, per John Taylor of College Football Talk. Here is his full statement:
My football playing career is over after suffering another paralyzing migraine early in fall camp. I’ve received the best medical treatment and guidance possible. Unfortunately, an exact cause of these migraines remains undetermined, and in order to assure my overall well-being, I’m forced to walk away from the game with an extremely heavy heart.
“This has been an incredibly difficult time for me and my family, but by the Grace of God, we can find comfort in His greater plan. Being a man of God and an ambassador for his word, I have come to realize that in times of questioning His plan you have to let go and let God take over, and that is what I am doing. I’ve played this game my entire life, and losing it makes me feel as if I have lost something inside. But I find comfort in knowing my Lord will open the next chapter in my life and fill what’s been taken.
“I want to sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, thank each and every person who has supported me and my career at Notre Dame for their thoughts and prayers. You are the greatest people and fans in this world and make Notre Dame the most righteous University that I could ever represent; I love each and every one of you so very much. I promise to continue to give all I can to this University this year by coaching my position and providing senior leadership in all ways. You may no longer hear my name on the field, but I promise you, this is not the last you will hear of Danny Spond. With God, my family, and Notre Dame, I will persevere to do great things.”
-END OF UPDATE-
Head coach Brian Kelly broke the news, per the ESPN report:
It was an emotional decision, Kelly said of Spond. It didn't come without a lot of thought. He spent the day speaking to a lot of specialists and his family was here, so this was not a decision that came easy.
He loves his teammates, but I think what's most important is he did what was in his best interest for his future, Kelly added. He's got a bright future. And his immediate [future] is he wants to be with the team, and our teammates were excited to hear he'll be with us every day. He'll travel with us. He'll help coach.
How does this impact Notre Dame?
It's a case of next guy up.
With the season beginning Aug. 31 against Temple, now isn't the time to panic and pretend that this news is going to cripple the season. Truthfully, there are worse things that could have happened to Notre Dame that could have put this year's success in danger, such as losing a promising dual-threat quarterback for the season.
In this case, linebackers Ben Councell and Jaylon Smith will be asked to grow up and replace Spond at outside linebacker. Councell played in 12 games last year and had 10 tackles, while Smith is a true freshman who is still learning the ropes.
Young or not, both are going to be thrown into the fire, as Kelly mentioned, per Eric Hansen of the South Bend Tribune: "They're both going to play a lot," Kelly said.
Councell is a long, rangy athlete who is still a little raw, but he was named the "most improved" player in the spring by defensive coordinator Bob Diaco. His experience will help take some of the pressure off of Smith, but that doesn't mean the 2013 recruit is going to play a backup role. In fact, he may end up becoming the full-time starter sooner rather than later.
Smith is an elite athlete who has the best skill set of any linebacker on the Notre Dame depth chart. He has a unique combination of speed and strength and reacts to the ball quickly. He has smooth change-of-direction skills and is relentless when pursuing the ball-carrier. He's terrific in both run support and pass coverage and can play just about anywhere in the front seven.
The 5-star recruit is Notre Dame's prized prospect of last year's recruiting class and easily has more upside than any other Irish recruit in recent memory. He has first-team All-American potential and will have a similar impact his freshman season as former defensive end Aaron Lynch had in 2011.
Losing an experienced player is never an ideal situation, especially when the Irish already lost linebacker Manti Te'o to graduation. But this move will give two promising players a chance to thrive, including somebody who should become a household name within no time.
The Irish also still have one of the best defensive lines in the country and an experienced secondary, and talent remains at linebacker. Notre Dame's defense will be just fine.