NOTRE DAME — The regular Notre Dame defensive line may be ready to reunite by Saturday, Nov. 9.
For the first time since the Oct. 26 win over USC, Louis Nix, Stephon Tuitt and Sheldon Day may take the field at the same time during Notre Dame’s trip to Pittsburgh on Saturday.
Nix, who has been sidelined with knee tendinitis and a torn meniscus since the USC game, was expected to practice on Tuesday, according to head coach Brian Kelly. Kelly said Nix and Day, who re-aggravated an ankle injury against Navy, are hopeful for Saturday.
“We’re looking at this weekend hopefully getting at least those three guys on the field at the same time,” Kelly said of Nix, Tuitt and Day. “At what level of health, we will see where it is. I think everybody at this time of year isn’t at 100 percent, but I think we’re getting close where we may get all three of them on the field at one time.”
Kelly said Nix had been coming into the training room at 7 a.m. and carrying a jug of water around during the day to stay hydrated and in-shape for his return.
“He’s really worked hard in these last couple of weeks to stay fit,” Kelly said. “I think he’s committed to giving everything he can. He’s committed to getting himself back here and doing the best he can do help our football team.”
Kelly said Nix will undergo surgery after the season to clean up the tendinitis.
Notre Dame will need every first-string defender healthy enough to play against a team that has recently played the Irish close and won’t give up many points. Pittsburgh is 4-4 but has allowed no more than 24 points in any game since Sept. 21.
Pitt is big and physical defensively, and, as Kelly puts it, not too fond of Notre Dame.
“Midwestern team, tough, blue collar, physical,” Kelly said. “They don’t seem to like Notre Dame very much, and they want to beat Notre Dame. I think it’s one of those games where you know you’re going to go in and it’s going to be a fight. We’re prepared for that.”
Kelly’s comments come a day after Pitt tight end J.P. Holtz expressed an unfavorable opinion of the Irish.
“Personally, I don’t like Notre Dame at all,” Holtz told the Post-Gazette on Monday. “I think they’re really cocky and their coaches are really cocky. I just don’t like that.”
Kelly nodded to Pitt’s Aaron Donald in particular, calling the senior defensive tackle a “one-man wrecking crew.” Donald had 11 tackles (six for loss), two forced fumbles and a sack in Pitt’s loss to Georgia Tech last week.
“We know about him from last year,” Kelly said of Donald. “Big, physical defensive line, and he will be somebody that we will have to game plan and find a way to slow down. He’s in the backfield, very active.”
Offensive guard Chris Watt (PCL) is also expected to return for the Pitt game. Kelly said a full week of practice should help Watt adjust to the “instability” in his leg. Safety Austin Collinsworth’s neck MRI came back clean, but Kelly said Collinsworth is still experiencing spasms that kept him out of Tuesday practice.
Linebacker Ben Councell’s season-ending left knee injury turned out to be an ACL tear. Kelly said Councell will have surgery soon and will likely be limited in the spring.