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Notre Dame

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Notre Dame

Senior tight end ready for action after lost year

– Alex Welch is ready to perform for Notre Dame.

The senior tight end missed last season after he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during fall camp.

The 6-foot-3, 251-pound Welch, who had one catch for eight yards in 10 games in 2011, said that after going through spring practice, he no longer worries about his knee.

“It was a little nerve-wracking, obviously,” Welch said Monday of his return after a season away. “You haven’t played football for six months, you just sat and watched. To get back out there, it felt awesome.

“Now, I’m past that point (of worrying about my knee). I’m just playing football like my old self. I don’t think about it at all.”

Welch will be competing for playing time with 6-6, 270-pound junior Troy Niklas and 6-5, 261-pound junior Ben Koyak. The Irish also have 6-3, 225-pound freshman Mike Heuerman as a tight end option.

Adjusting to weight

Ben Councell said when he arrived at Notre Dame, he weighed about 220 pounds.

The junior linebacker enters this season listed at 6-4, 254 pounds. And it took some time for him to get used to the added weight.

“I was always pretty quick and pretty fast for my size, and having that additional weight, you just start noticing your knees after practices swell up and your lower back starts cramping up and stuff like that,” said Councell, who along with Jaylon Smith will likely be counted on to replace last year’s starting outside linebacker Danny Spond, who had to stop playing because of medical reasons.

“With the strength coaching staff here, they are really good, and during the summer, we worked really hard and a lot of agility drills. We’ve got all of that under control.”

Doing more

Ishaq Williams will be asked to do a lot for the defense this year.

The 6-5, 261-pound junior will be primarily used at outside linebacker, but he will also be used at defensive end and as a linebacker in the dime defense.

“Defensive line is not that different, and neither is the dime linebacker. They are all pretty much intertwined,” said Williams, who had 22 tackles with 3 1/2 for loss in 13 games last season. “You just train hard in the offseason, run harder, get your stamina up and get ready for what is coming to you.”

Plenty of help

Elijah Shumate hasn’t locked down one of the starting safety positions, but the 6-foot, 213-pound sophomore has been getting plenty of time with the first-team defense during fall camp.

“I’m just going to leave it up to the coaches and work hard every day,” Shumate said of the chances of starting.

Shumate, who had nine tackles in 13 games last year, has also been getting plenty of help to prepare him to potentially start alongside returning starting safety Matthias Farley.

“Matthias has been great,” Shumate said. “He’s a great player and great leader. He’s definitely been helping me out, as well as the other defensive backs.”

Impressive group

The Irish’s 2014 recruiting class had four players make the list of top 100 prospects that Rivals.com announced Monday.

Running back Elijah Hood leads the group of committed players at No. 14.

Offensive lineman Quinton Nelson is No. 19, and offensive lineman Alex Bars is No. 36.

Receiver Justin Brent checked in at No. 74.

tkrausz@jg.net

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