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Notre Dame's Louis Nix III set to return

Louis Nix III is ready to go.

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly told reporters Thursday that the senior nose guard will play when the No. 24 Irish (7-2) travel to play Pittsburgh (4-4) on Saturday night.

"He will play and it's not hypothetical," Kelly said of Nix. "He had a good week of practice, a full week of practice, moved around well. He was in the training room all week,

"Thursdays are our 48-hour meetings with the staff, which is where we get our pretty definitive idea of if our guys are going to be full strength and everybody feels like he's going to be good to go."

Nix missed the last two games while dealing with tendinitis in his knee and a torn meniscus, and Kelly said the 6-foot-2, 357-pounder with 22 tackles and two tackles for loss is itching to return.

"He was antsy last week," Kelly said. "I think the first week (when Nix didn't travel for the game at Air Force) he was OK. He needs to be around the team. He's a guy that obviously football is so important to him, and obviously, he's close to finishing his degree and so a lot of his focus is being with his teammates and being around football. I think (the first) week is kind of a 'Hey, this is some time off.'

"The second week (when the Irish played host to Navy) he was around and on the sideline this past weekend, went to the ballgame. If you asked him, he's back to where he likes to be."

Nix will likely not be able to sustain the number of plays he was in for before the injury, and Kelly said the Irish will use freshman Jarron Jones as the backup at nose guard. Jones' move to nose guard could continue into next season.

"(Jones) played pretty good against Navy," Kelly said. "We were pleased with his play. He's a big kid that we just need to continue to develop. We feel like he can hold his own and contribute."

With Nix's return, Notre Dame should have its original starting defensive line intact this weekend.

Stephon Tuitt, who hasn't missed a game this year, and Sheldon Day, who re-tweaked his ankle, should bookend Nix.

"Sheldon Day, you know, as long as he doesn't fall on that or tweak it, he should be able to help us on Saturday," Kelly said.

Notre Dame could also have all of its safeties available against Pitt.

Kelly said Elijah Shumate, who missed the last three games with a hamstring injury, should play, and Austin Collinsworth, who suffered a neck injury against Navy, was cleared to play.

"(Collinsworth) participated in non-contact activities (Wednesday)," Kelly said. "He was fully cleared today, so he'll be able to play on Saturday. It will be (Eilar) Hardy and Austin with Shumate and (Matthias) Farley. So those will be your four safeties."

Notre Dame will be without linebacker Ishaq Williams, who injured his knee against Air Force, and defensive lineman Kona Schwenke, who suffered an ankle injury against Navy. But Kelly said he is hopeful both can return after the bye week for when the Irish play host to BYU on Nov. 23

"Ishaq is in week two so this week he started range of motion, specifically leg lifts and began some strengthening," Kelly said. "You don't want atrophy in the quad and that area, so week two, he began weight-training regimen. Next week he will begin running. So in the bye week, it will be a week for him to get in some heavy cardio running and our expectations is that he will be practicing for BYU.

"As it relates to Kona, we have put him in a cast, so he's in a cast for 10 days. I don't know if it is aggressive or conservative. I don't know what the medical terminology would be, but instead of putting him in a boot, we wanted to go 10 days and really shut that down. We will know when we take that cast off where we are with him, and if we have gotten the pain and inflammation out of there, you know, we could be looking at something in the line of getting him back for BYU."

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