Notre Dame Football: Tate Nichols

Notre Dame offensive tackle Tate Nichols has been removed from the active roster and will go on medical scholarship, coach Brian Kelly told the South Bend Tribune.

Nichols, a rising senior who has suffered through chronic knee issues with the Irish, will not count toward the 85-man scholarship limit.

Kelly also said Bennett Jackson, George Atkinson III and Josh Atkinson will not run with Notre Dame's track and field team this spring. All three did last year.

Notre Dame mailblog

March, 1, 2013
What's up?

Greg from San Francisco writes: Hi Matt, What's the real scoop on Ishaq Williams ? He came in as 5 star HS recruit along with Stephan Tuitt. He's not a starter and is played sparingly. Is it too early to consider him a recruitment bust ?

Matt Fortuna: Greg, I'd say it's too early, yes. He saw more and more action as the season went on last year, and I think the instant big impact others in his recruiting class -- namely, Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt -- made at Notre Dame have probably skewed outside expectations. Fellow cat linebacker Prince Shembo's standout 2012 campaign probably didn't help matters, either.

Colin Meyer from Madison, Ind., writes: How long do you think it will take for Gunner Kiel to figure out that he is squandering his NFL career by sitting on ND's bench?

Matt Fortuna: Colin, this was a popular topic late last season, even as the Irish made their run to the national title game. We got to talk to Kiel during bowl media day, and he said the thought of transferring never crossed his mind. While Everett Golson clearly has the inside track heading into the spring, the quarterback position has been far from stable at Notre Dame in recent years, and we all know that Brian Kelly won't hesitate to make a switch if the production isn't up to par. I'd wait and see how things unfold in 2013 before speculating on Kiel's future.

Bobby from Pensacola, Fla., writes: Now that the recruiting class is signed it will be interesting to hear about the medical status of the players and 5th year invites... Let's get on it Matt, time to know what the roster is going to look like. GO IRISH!!!

Matt Fortuna: Bobby, no official word, but barring anything unforeseen the returning fifth-year players figure to be Zack Martin, Chris Watt, Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese. I'd say Nick Tausch has a chance, too. As for medical status, Matt Hegarty (ministroke) is expected to be cleared by spring practice, Austin Collinsworth (shoulder and back surgeries) should be ready and Bennett Jackson and Fox (shoulder surgeries) will likely be limited come spring. I'd be surprised if Lo Wood (Achilles) participated at all in the spring, and, last we heard from Kelly, constant leg problems might force Tate Nichols to take a medical redshirt.
After the NFL and the Manti Te'o questions came football talk, bringing some good and bad news to a 22-day-old Notre Dame offseason that has felt much longer.

Starting cornerback Bennett Jackson had surgery to repair a labrum tear. Starting inside linebacker Dan Fox had a similar operation. Both are expected to be limited to non-contact portions of spring practice, which starts March 20.

Safety Austin Collinsworth is expected to be ready this spring after missing the 2012 season because of separate shoulder and back surgeries. Brian Kelly also sounded optimistic about the playing future of center Matt Hegarty, who was shut down for the season following a Nov. 8 mini-stroke, while cornerback Lo Wood continues to recover from an Achllies tear suffered in fall camp.

Constant leg problems, meanwhile, may force offensive tackle Tate Nichols to take a medical redshirt.

Kelly pegged Hegarty, Nick Martin and Mark Harrell as players in the mix to replace Braxston Cave at center. Kelly said Fox, Carlo Calabrese and Jarrett Grace are the front-runners to replace Te'o at the MIKE linebacker spot, with Kendall Moore and potential incoming freshmen having a chance to be included as well.

The mentioning of Fox and Calabrese means both will likely be back for a fifth season in 2013, though Kelly said the official process needs to still take place.

"We're going to sit down when we get back, as we always have from recruiting, once we finish up our numbers in recruiting, then we start to talk about our fifth-year guys," Kelly said. "But they'll all, as we have in the past, they'll continue to train because they're in school anyway. And then we'll let them know our decisions as we talk to the university, relative to granting that additional year."

Kelly also said he is hoping the NCAA's ruling on safety Jamoris Slaughter's appeal for a sixth year will come before national signing day. Kelly said Slaughter is still in school.
DAVIE, Fla. — Everett Golson was much more vocal Thursday than he was in fall camp, naturally. That was one of the first things that jumped out during the media's first viewing of Notre Dame practice since August.

Here are a few other notes and observations from Nova Southeastern University — the practice facility of the Miami Dolphins — as media members were allowed to watch the first 15 minutes, which consisted mostly of tempo drills. (Defense was on an opposite field, so the offense received most of the visitors' attention.)
  • DaVaris Daniels looks pretty much recovered from the broken left clavicle he suffered Nov. 10 at Boston College, as he was active throughout. Offensive coordinator Chuck Martin jumped on the redshirt freshman at one point, telling him if his running wasn't better on a particular route, then the Irish would have no chance.
  • Freshman quarterback Gunner Kiel, normally No. 1, was wearing a No. 10 jersey to play the role of Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron on the scout team.
  • Head coach Brian Kelly alluded to depth concerns on the offensive line, and he wasn't kidding. The second-team offensive line consisted, from left to right, of Nick Martin, Conor Hanratty, Mark Harrell, Bruce Heggie and an unidentified walk-on wearing No. 76. (Hanratty and Harrell were both wearing No. 65, too.) Tate Nichols (knee) and Ronnie Stanley (elbow) have been out, as has Matt Hegarty for a non-football medical issue.

Watt, Fox hope to return

December, 31, 2012
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Chris Watt learned that he was coming to Notre Dame for a fifth year from reporters, who had learned that Watt was coming back from the man he plays beside.

At least that's how left tackle Zack Martin spun it two weeks ago, when he said that part of the reason for his coming back for a fifth year was to play alongside Watt, his left guard and good friend.

"I haven't been officially asked yet, but I think I heard that I think I'm coming back," Watt laughed Saturday.

Fifth-year invites were not announced publicly last year until the start of spring practice, though invites from the staff and the process of going before the Faculty Board of Athletics comes much earlier than that.

Still, Watt and linebacker Dan Fox are two players who would welcome the chance to play one more year in an Irish uniform.

"I would love to play here another year if they ask me, but of course they haven't said anything," Fox said.

Part-time starting linebacker Carlo Calabrese figures to be another player who would be invited to return next season. Tyler Eifert is expected to turn pro after this season, and Cierre Wood has yet to decide on his future.

Collinsworth update: Coach Brian Kelly revealed Saturday that Austin Collinsworth had back surgery this season but will be ready come spring. The junior safety has not played this season after undergoing shoulder surgery. "He had a discectomy, kind of like Eifert had. Very similar. I can’t give you the exact [diagnosis], whether it was right or left, but he needed that tended to. He got that taken care of. He feels great. So we think we’ve got him put back together. He’s chomping at the bit."

The other guys: Kelly said everyone on the roster had been incorporated into the first three weeks of bowl practice, and that this past weekend would account for the most physical sessions of the postseason. Jarrett Grace, Jarron Jones and Gunner Kiel are names the coach mentioned when asked who stood out. … Kelly said he had to be careful with the second-team offensive line, which is missing Ronnie Stanley, Tate Nichols and Matt Hegarty. Nick Martin has been used everywhere, Kelly said, with Mark Harrell taking a majority of reps at center and Conor Hanratty at guard.

Brian Kelly avoiding BCS politics

November, 6, 2012
Brian Kelly walked into the Gug auditorium a few minutes late sporting a neutral brown tie, apologizing for the tardiness caused by his decision to participate in Election Day this morning.

"It's also Tuesday press conference day at Notre Dame," he cracked.

But Kelly won't be tapping into his political background to campaign this season as it relates to his team's undefeated record but No. 4 BCS standing. With three regular-season games remaining and three undefeated teams ahead of the Irish, it is very possible that a perfect Notre Dame team gets left out of the BCS title game.

Coaching an undefeated regular-season team at Cincinnati in 2009 makes Kelly well-versed in such situations, and he is handling this one the same way.

"I never went out in the media and tried to defend what we did," Kelly said. "Here's who we played. All we can do and all we can control is winning these football games. If the field goes awry against Nebraska against Texas [in the 2009 Big 12 title game], it changes things. And it could be the same situation again with Notre Dame three years later.

"I can't control any of that. What I can control is to make sure these guys play better against BC. So I think I've been consistent in answering the question in the way I've approached being where we are."

Kelly was later asked if the coaching move from the Bearcats to the Irish made a repeat situation seem less likely for him.

"If you told me that Alabama and Oregon are also undefeated, as well as Notre Dame, I'd say there's a chance, there's a chance," he said. "Those are teams that have been here and done that. Notre Dame hasn't done it in awhile, and those teams are undefeated, too. I'd say, well, there's a chance we might get left out."

Nichols likely done for season: Reserve tackle Tate Nichols' season is likely over because of a PCL injury, though Kelly said swelling needs to go down before further evaluation.
Notre Dame survived a potentially self-inflicted mistake Saturday, one that could have put its perfect season in further jeopardy.

When Pitt's Kevin Harper missed a 33-yard field goal in the second overtime that would have ended the game had it gone in, the Irish had Bennett Jackson and Chris Brown, both of whom wear No. 2, on the field together.

By rule, Notre Dame should have been penalized and the Panthers should have gotten a first down.

"No exception to [the rule]," coach Brian Kelly said during his Sunday teleconference. "It was a coaching mistake. ... We've got to do a better job -- an oversight that can't happen."

Kelly said he noticed the gaffe right after the play.

Pitt ended up kicking a field on its next drive to start the third overtime before Everett Golson rushed for the game-winning touchdown.

Notre Dame had been penalized for a similar mistake once earlier this season, when Dan McCarthy and Justin Ferguson, both No. 15, were on the kick return unit together in Week 2 against Purdue. Ferguson has since changed his jersey to No. 82.

"We have an easy way for us to make sure that this doesn't happen again," Kelly said. "[Jackson and Brown] won't be on the field again. It's on me now, so I'm going to make sure it doesn't happen."

Nichols still hurting: Kelly said tackle Tate Nichols may have taken a step back with a knee injury and will get an MRI this week, though information won't be available until later in the week.

Bye week grades: Offensive line

September, 26, 2012

Grade: A-minus

Summary: When asked before the season what he knows and likes about his team, coach Brian Kelly said that it's a good feeling knowing you will probably win the battle in the trenches every time out. The Purdue game, in which Notre Dame surrendered five sacks to a standout defensive line, drew some cause for concern, but the Irish offensive line has been top-notch in three other contests, helping to break in a new quarterback while opening crucial holes late in contests to help the Irish run their way to victory. Notre Dame rushed for 293 yards in a season-opening win against Navy, paved the way for a 12-play, 84-yard game-sealing drive at Michigan State and allowed Theo Riddick to rush for 40 yards on 12 carries over the game's final two drives in a win over Michigan. The numbers, outside of Week 1, do not jump off the page, but the line has been instrumental in lifting the Irish to victory in three of their four wins.

Backups: Tackle Tate Nichols has been inactive so far after dealing with a preseason right knee subluxation, forcing true freshman Ronnie Stanley into the fold late against Navy. Redshirt freshman Nick Martin is a valuable and versatile second-team piece. But the Irish have not had to call upon their reserves much through the first-third of the season.

Previous report cards:


Defensive line

It's game day at Spartan Stadium

September, 15, 2012
EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Greetings from Spartan Stadium, where No. 20 Notre Dame and No. 10 Michigan State are about an hour away from kickoff.

We already know what's at-stake here for the Irish, who begin a six-game stretch in which they face five ranked opponents. They are 0 for their last 9 against top-10 teams, losing by an average margin of 15 points per game. A 2005 victory at then-No. 3 Michigan was Notre Dame's last victory over a top-10 opponent, and the Irish will hope to replicate that performance again tonight in the Mitten.

A couple travel items: USC running back transfer Amir Carlisle did not make the trip after being cleared for action two weeks ago. Carlisle suffered a broken ankle before the spring and has yet to play for the Irish, who bring back former starter Cierre Wood for his first game of the season.

Defensive end Chase Hounshell did not travel with the team, either. Brian Kelly has said that Hounshell not playing through two games is a matter of having too many players in front of him, though. Tackle Tate Nichols (right knee subluxation) did not travel, either, as he has yet to play this season.

One player who did make the trip is linebacker Danny Spond, who is expected to appear in his first game of 2012 after suffering a preseason head injury. Spond will likely see time at the dog spot with Ben Councell, moving the Dan Fox/Carlo Calabrese tandem back to the will spot. Calabrese was at the will last week in his first game back from suspension, but Fox was moved outside, as Kelly wanted Councell to see a traditional offense from the sideline before stepping in.

The student section is full and the rest of the crowd is beginning to file in, with Spartans players heading over beforehand to greet their classmates. We'll be back with any breaking news throughout the game and to recap the night's events here, with in-game observations coming from Twitter. We'll also have a live chat going throughout the game, with yours truly chiming in during the second and fourth quarters.

If history's any indication, it will be a fun one. Looking forward to it.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Tate Nichols and Danny Spond will be bystanders again Saturday when Notre Dame hosts Purdue.

Amir Carlisle, meanwhile, could make his Irish debut after being cleared to practice.

Those were among the most newsworthy items to come out of Brian Kelly's weekly news conference Tuesday, as the coach moved on from a season-opening win in Dublin to focusing on the task at hand with the Boilermakers.

Kelly also said publicly for the first time what had long been expected -- that safety Austin Collinsworth is unlikely to see the field this season following spring shoulder surgery. The junior does have a redshirt available.

Spond, if all goes well, could return for the Sept. 15 game at Michigan State.

"Tate Nichols will go through some individual workouts today," Kelly said. "He will not be involved in any team. Last week he put a bar on his shoulder for the first time, so he was in the weight room. So he now he enters that next stage of re-engaging, if you will, in football-related activities. But he will not be available to us this weekend.

"Amir Carlisle has been cleared to practice today, so he will be part of our practice rotation. And Danny Spond has been cleared for everything but physical contact. We believe, if things go well this week, that he'll be cleared for next week. And again, it's contingent upon how he progresses through this week."

Assistant coaches, who usually speak to the media every Tuesday in-season, are not available this week. Players, who are normally available during three different sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday, will only speak to the media following practice Wednesday evening.

Kelly said there was no real thinking behind the changes to access.

"There wasn't a grand scheme to protect anybody as much as I wanted to make sure our players were focused," Kelly said. "Their schedule is so long in terms of their academics and study tape and all those things, we wanted to streamline it as best we could."

"Same thing with the assistants," he added. "They're 90 hours a week here. I really felt like for me I could take a lot of that off their plate so they could focus strictly on at the end of the day our preparation."
The biggest personnel item heading into Notre Dame's home opener against Purdue this Saturday comes from the Boilermakers, who announced Monday night that Caleb TerBush would be their starting quarterback.

TerBush started all 13 games last season but was suspended by coach Danny Hope for this past Saturday's opener, a 48-6 win over Eastern Kentucky. Purdue plays three quarterbacks regularly, including Rob Henry and Robert Marve, the latter completing 30 of 38 passes for 295 yards and three touchdowns Saturday.

Hope announced his starter during his Monday radio show and said that all three will see action against the Irish. The response in West Lafayette has been underwhelming. From colleague Adam Rittenberg:
Judging by the reactions of some Purdue fans on Twitter, Hope's decision to stick with TerBush over Marve isn't going over too well. Marve certainly looked good Saturday and has the most natural ability of any Boilers quarterback, but he didn't beat out TerBush on the practice field, and TerBush has been Hope's No. 1 guy for some time now. Then again, TerBush is a senior and a captain who represented the team at the Big Ten kickoff luncheon. His misstep is disappointing, and it wouldn't have been surprising had Marve replaced him in the lineup.

The changes on Notre Dame's depth chart, meanwhile, all revolved around the second team:
Lastly, Notre Dame players returned to their Monday staple this week: Trick-shot Monday. I'll let the video do the talking.

Notre Dame weekend rewind: Week 1

September, 3, 2012
Here's one last look at what was a successful opening weekend for the Irish:

The good: Each line received a game ball for its efforts Saturday, and deservedly so. Yes, there is plenty of talent in the Irish's backfield, but that talent doesn't get the chance to do what it did to Navy without the push up front. Remember, Navy was supposed to have the strong ground game. Notre Dame's 292 rushing yards -- and the Midshipmen's 149 -- were a testament to the strong play from both of Notre Dame's lines.

The bad: It wouldn't be a Notre Dame game without a red zone turnover, right? Everett Golson's first career gaffe came midway through the second quarter, when he was picked off by Parrish Gaines at the Navy 4. Fortunately for Golson, he and his teammates did more than enough to make up for it in a 40-point win.

Biggest surprise: Tackle Ronnie Stanley saw some playing time in the second half, a rarity for a freshman offensive lineman. Of course, Jordan Prestwood's departure and Tate Nichols' injury left the Irish thin there. Brian Kelly said Sunday that the decision was made before the trip that Stanley would play if the opportunity arose.

Best quote: In what is probably the most accurate way to describe 303-pound teammate Stephon Tuitt, who returned a fumble 77 yards for a score, Braxston Cave told reporters: "He's a freak."

Next up: And you thought Notre Dame once had quarterback conundrums? The Irish return to the United States to kick off their home schedule against rival Purdue, which has three capable signal-callers and is coming off a 48-6 rout of Eastern Kentucky.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- After the quarterback decision everyone had been anticipating was finally announced Thursday, Brian Kelly revealed a few more depth chart items that would have qualified for headlines on almost any other day.

Freshmen KeiVarae Russell and Davonte Neal will have prominent roles for Notre Dame this season after arriving on campus just two months ago. Russell, a converted running back, is now the starting cornerback replacing Lo Wood after the junior ruptured his left Achilles tendon, which was successfully operated on Wednesday. Wood should be back in six months.

Neal, meanwhile, will be the Irish's season-opening punt returner, with George Atkinson III once again returning kickoffs.

Kelly also said that versatile reserve Nick Martin would probably replace either starting offensive tackle if he were to get injured, with Conor Hanratty looking like the best reserve option at guard. Starting right guard Mike Golic Jr., who replaced center Braxston Cave (foot) during the final four games of 2011, would again be the top center option in event of an injury.

When Tate Nichols (patella subluxation in left knee) returns, Kelly said, he will need to compete with Martin and freshman Ronnie Stanley to get into the tackle rotation.

Freshman Romeo Okwara is currently the No. 2 drop linebacker in place of Danny Spond (head). Kelly said there is no timetable for Spond's return.

Notre Dame chat wrap: Aug. 23

August, 23, 2012
Thanks again for the strong turnout during our weekly Notre Dame chat. As always, a full transcript is available here.

Some highlights:
  • Chad (Columbus, Ohio): Do you think the Irish have enough talent to compete with USC, Oklahoma, Mich, and Standford this year? I'm not sure I'll survive another season of Notre Dame losing the big games. Thanks Matt. Look forward in reading about your thoughts on this.
  • Matt Fortuna (2:06 PM): Chad, talent-wise, they are not up there with USC and Oklahoma, no. But that's why we play these games, no? USF and Tulsa don't stack up to ND talent-wise, and that did not seem to matter on those respective Saturdays. I think the Michigan and Stanford games are certainly winnable, but recent history is not on the Irish's side with those opponents.
  • Jeff (South Bend, Ind.): Hi Matt! I have been really excited to see Devonte Neal get out on the field this season, but haven't heard much about him out of camp. How is he looking to factor in this season? Does ND finally have a punt returner in him?
  • Matt Fortuna (2:14 PM): Jeff, it wouldn't surprise me if he were starting by mid-season. I think this offense has the chance to really exploit his potential, and if he can prove he's ready to handle returns, all the better for the Irish.
  • Scooter (Southeast of South Bend, Ind.): I know our O-Line should be good. I would like to know if they are better at the run or the pass? Shouldn't they be a solid anchor for all the skilled players to shine behind and thus goes the offense?
  • Matt Fortuna (2:42 PM): Scooter, the first-team line may be the best thing Notre Dame has going for it, aside from running backs. There are depth concerns given the Jordan Prestwood departure and Tate Nichols injury, but if healthy the line should be great, and I'd say a little bit better for the run. Yes, that makes life much easier for the skill guys, but it won't matter if the QB play isn't better.
Brian Kelly confirmed reports of Lo Wood's season-ending Achilles' injury, which will require surgery Wednesday and should sideline the junior for 4-6 months.

The Notre Dame coach said during Tuesday's news conference that Wood suffered a non-contact injury, as Wood heard a pop while simply back-pedaling during Monday's practice.

Five cornerbacks will compete for the No. 1 field spot opposite boundary corner Bennett Jackson, Kelly said, with the distinction between the two positions fading a little for those five players.

Fifth-year safety Jamoris Slaughter will not move to cornerback, nor will first-year receiver Davonte Neal.

Elsewhere ...
  • Everett Golson and Andrew Hendrix are still splitting practice reps evenly. Kelly had said during Thursday's media day that he hoped to separate the reps some more this week.
  • Redshirt sophomore right tackle Tate Nichols, who has a patella subluxation in his left knee, will likely not be available for the Navy opener. Kelly is hoping Nichols is back for Week 2 against Purdue.


Drive Through: Stanford at Notre Dame Preview
A look at some key matches in this weekend's game between No. 14 Stanford and No. 9 Notre Dame.


Friday, 10/3
Saturday, 10/4