Irons, Miller among key injuries
By BRIAN KESSLER
Notre Dame went to war with Tennessee in Knoxville last Saturday and it returned to South Bend with a lengthly list of wounded.
The offense was hit the hardest, losing two players for the remainder of the season. Offensive tackle Jordan Black tore his right MCL in the second half, while tailback Terrance Howard suffered a hamstring injury.
With Black sidelined against Tennessee, offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers said the Irish were forced "to play left handed." Notre Dame now has less than a week to make adjustments on the line and get back to playing right handed again. Junior Kurt Vollers is expected to make his first career start in Black's place.
"It's in a position where we are young," head coach Bob Davie said at Tuesday's press conference. "I mean, it is Kurt Vollers and Sean Mahan [who backup Black]. Both those players I think have some potential. I am kind of anxious to watch them play. But Jordan Black, that hurts us losing him."
Howard's injury is the cause for concern at the tailback position. His injury along with the losses of Tony Driver (suspended) and Darcey Levy (transfered) reduces Notre Dame's once large corps of tailbacks to just two — Julius Jones and Tony Fisher.
"It's a lot of reps in practice," said Jones, who has been wearing a knee brace in practice due to an injury suffered against the Volunteers.
"It's just basically me and Tony Fisher. We just have to hang in there."
David Givens will make the move from flanker to tailback to give the Irish more depth at that position.
"He pretty much knows the plays," Jones said. "He goes in for us on some situations like goal line so he pretty much knows all the plays."
The special teams units will also be shaken up with the losses of Howard and kicker David Miller, who suffered a hip flexor.
"You saw him [Howard] on kickoff returns," said Davie, who expects to replace Howard with Jones and Givens. "Also he was our gunner on the punt team and he was on the kickoff coverage team. He is a player that has speed. And, boy, we just can't afford to take guys off the field that have that kind of speed. That hurts us."
Sanson, rather than freshman Nick Setta, will assume the kicking duties with Miller out.
"I just don't think like right now with Nick Setta, it is not the right time to do that," Davie said.
"If David Miller can't go, which I don't think David will go, Jim Sanson will be the kicker. You got to be proud of Jim Sanson. He has done a good job on kickoffs and he has hung in there and shown a lot of character."
The defense took its biggest hit in the secondary. Junior safety Ron Israel (hand) and freshman cornerback Albert Poree (knee) will both undergo surgery this week. Safety Justin Smith is also banged up and won't play.
These injuries have more significance when the suspensions of Brock Williams and Lee Lafayette are factored in.
Defensive end Jason Ching is done for the season after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery last week and defensive end Grant Irons is listed as questionable for Satureday's game.
"I would say [Grant] is 50-50; maybe less than 50-50," Davie said.
"Today is a big day just to see if he — right now he can't run. He was kicked in his calf, in his shin, kind of an Achilles, you know, that whole area is inflamed right now."
Despite all the injuries, Davie is confident that he can run the table with the players he has left.
"The challenge, like always, is finding a way to win," Davie said. "Everybody has problems. And I think the thing is we have enough talent to win. We have got enough talent to win these three games."
All Sports Stories for Wednesday, November 10, 1999