The days of being in the shadows of Robert Blanton and Gary Gray are now over for cornerbacks Lorenzo “Lo” Wood (Apopka, FL/Apopka) and Bennett Jackson (Hazlet, NJ/Raritan). For Jackson, he will be getting his due time in the starting lineup, but Wood will now have to wait until the 2013 season.
Wood was all set to step into a starting role for Bob Diaco’s defense this fall and in just seconds during Monday’s practice, it all came tumbling down. One minute, you’re running in a drill in practice. The next, you’ve put an end to all the hard work that you knew was paying off. Lo will be out four to six months and should be back in time for spring football.
With just five scholarship players remaining at cornerback, it leaves head coach Brian Kelly and defensive coordinator Bob Diaco in quite the bind with the season opener coming up in 10 days in Dublin, Ireland. Digging deep in the depth chart, it’s still a crapshoot for who will start at the other cornerback spot opposite Jackson.
Wood’s out of the mix until next spring, but there are probably four guys that could step in to take his place. Sophomore Jalen Brown (Irving, TX/MacArthur) is making the biggest improvement. Brown is competing for a starting job with fellow sophomore Josh Atkinson (Stockton, CA/Granada), who is the twin brother of running back/kick returner George Atkinson III. Just like his brother George, Josh Atkinson is a speedster and could prove to be what Notre Dame is looking for in a cover corner. Another sophomore in Cam McDaniel (Coppell, TX/Coppell), switched from running back to cornerback during the off-season and it might become a blessing in disguise that he’ll be able to help provide depth for the Irish defense. True freshman KeiVarae Russell (Everett, WA/Mariner) will also now be looked at to come in and play more of a role than he imagined and be part of the rotation right away.
In recent seasons, Irish corners have struggled with covering some of the nation’s best wide receivers and tight ends. It’s been more than just struggling. They’ve been burned pretty badly by the Michigan, Michigan State, Stanford and USC offenses to name just four that come to mind.
More than likely, it’s going to be a last minute decision as to who will actually start on Saturday, September 1st against the Navy Midshipmen. In the days before the Irish head across the pond to Ireland, it sure will be a dog fight for playing time with the first team defense.
Junior cornerback Lo Wood left a drill during Monday’s practice with a torn achilles tendon and will not be able to return at all in the 2012 season.