Injuries to a member of your football team are always difficult to deal with, but they are especially difficult when they come towards the end of the season and when you are on the verge of facing the toughest opponent that you will play against all year long.
That is exactly what the 2011 version of the Notre Dame football team is dealing with at the moment with Jonas Gray. Even though the Irish are waiting on MRI results on Gray’s knee, the preliminary reports don’t look good. The Irish senior appears to have a torn ACL that will keep out for the final regular season and whichever bowl game that ND decides to play in.
The injury to Gray hurts a ton, but it hurts that much more when it came on Senior Day. Gray could be seen crying on the sidelines knowing full well that he has played his last down in the blue and gold. When I first heard the news how severe the injury, I instantly became sick to my stomach and lost a bit of interest in the game.
Gray’s sudden resurgence in 2011 has been one of the biggest surprises for the Irish. Highly touted coming out of high school, Gray did next to nothing in his first three seasons in an Irish uniform, but that all changed this year. In his last season of eligibility, Gray had 791 yards on 114 attempts, good for 6.9 yards per carry. He also got into the end zone 12 times, including once in the Irish victory over the Eagles on Saturday.
All of that is suddenly forgotten though with Gray’s collegiate career more than likely over. The Michigan product now faces a long rehab ahead of him and his stock for the draft takes a big time hit. If Gray could have avoided injury and played well in his final two games, he could have very well went in the first couple of rounds in April’s draft.
Losing a running back is something that the Irish couldn’t afford to do. Behind Gray and starter Cierre Wood are two youngsters in George Atkinson III and Cam McDaniel. Both have seen very little time this season. Because of that, there is talk that Theo Riddick could be moved back to tailback.
Riddick was recruited as a running back and spent his freshman at the position in 2009, but was moved to slot receiver when Brian Kelly took over the head coaching duties. With the way Robby Toma has played in the slot the last two games, moving Riddick back to his original and most natural position makes sense.
As for Gray, I am hoping he can back from this injury as strong as ever. If he works hard during his rehab and there is no reason to think that he won’t, Gray can still make his dream come true and play at the next level in the National Football League.