Sometime after practice was closed to the media last Friday (practice seven), sixth year Senior receiver Avery Davis was called upon to run a jet sweep. Blessed with great speed, it’s a play that he has run effectively before. On Saturday Marcus Freeman described what happen next, “he was running a jet sweep, and planted and just went down.” The injury was later confirmed to be an ACL tear to his right knee. Last season’s injury was the same thing in the left. “Your talking about a captain and a great example of what we want our football players to be about. I’m just heartbroken for the kid.” Freeman added.
OMG, how could it happen again?
Offensive coordinator Tommy Rees expressed similar sentiments, “You’re not going to find a guy that’s more respected than Avery Davis, from his peers to the coaches.”
Coming off the injury suffered last year against Navy, Davis was being counted on to stabilize an already thin receiver room. Understandably, Notre Dame nation collectively gasped, over the tragedy for the young man for certain, but also over a wide receiver room now left thread bare.
Speculation immediately turned to ways to shore things up. Perhaps moving over somebody from the defense or getting creative with the deep tight end room could bridge the gap left by Davis’s loss.
Safety Xavier Watts, moved over from wide receiver last season and could go back, and the tight end room is not just Michael Mayer,actually it’s loaded. Freeman is open minded on the possibilities. “Tight end is an option, Moving a safety is an option. We haven’t made any decisions….there’s a lot of guys that can help us. There’s a lot of different things we can do with the people we have on this team.”
Offensive coordinator Tommy Rees indicated the he has embraced the challenge of moving forward without Davis’s contribution on the field. “We’ve got enough talent. It’s my job to put our guys in the right spots.”
With Davis out, and fifth year veteran Jose Wilkins out (but ahead of schedule and may be ready for Ohio State with a broken foot) and Sophomore Deion Colzie nursing a strained PCL, the Irish are now down to Braden Lenzy, Matt Salerno, Lorenzo Styles, Jayden Thomas and Freshman Tobias Merriweather to cover the three receiver roles.
6-0, 193 Sophomore/Junior Xavier Watts caught 61 passes for 1,072 yards and 13 touchdowns his senior year in high school, and could move back over to the position he was recruited for. Watts has developed a reputation for his aggressive hard hitting on the defensive side, but doesn’t look to be anymore than the fifth safety behind Brandon Joseph, Ramon Henderson, DJ Brown and Houston Griffin. Some speculation has also mentioned freshman CB Jayden Bellamy as a potential stop gap.
Rees also has the option of changing up his offense to utilize a talented group of tight ends,and maybe a running back or two. Michael Mayer is a given and is poised for another big season. But four others have flashed significant potential. They include sophomores Cane Berrong, and Kevin Bauman and freshman Holden Staes and Mitchell Evans. Whether it be two tight end sets, plugging one into the slot to block, or splitting them out just like a wide receiver, this is a deep and talented group that can give defenses problems. And what about Chris Tyree? Tyree, who has speed to burn and has shown ball catching skills in the past can be situated in the slot , or as a wideout.
Speaking of utilizing a running back, the running game can help fill in for the loss of Davis. If the offensive line lives up to its billing and if Chris Tyree, Logan Diggs and Audric Estime are on their game, who needs the passing game? In that situation, the Irish can look to a more controlled passing game, screens, bubbles, hitches just to keep the defense honest……..and RUN the football!
Fortunately losing Davis on the field does not mean a loss of his leadership. On his way to being a two time Captain, Davis can still be counted on to provide plenty of steadying support and advice to his teammates.
How the Irish scheme to deal with the loss of Davis will be interesting to watch, and the Irish have plenty of options. But one thing is for certain, the loss of Avery Davis has had a big impact on the team. Tommy Rees said it well, “You saw the impact on the group….You could feel it. And that’s just who AD is. There’s not a guy in the program that wouldn’t do anything for that kid.”
It’s sad, just sad.