Notre Dame still doesn't know whether cornerback KeiVarae Russell will be cleared to play by the NCAA this season. However, Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly expressed confidence Thursday that the standout cornerback will receive clearance in the wake of his suspension for academic misconduct last year and said Russell will practice with the team in the preseason while the program awaits word from the NCAA.
"The information I've gotten back from (athletic director) Jack Swarbrick and our athletic administration is that we've submitted everything. We feel confident in the information that we've submitted to the NCAA, and we feel very strong about (Russell's) eligibility," Kelly said, per ESPN. "We certainly were guided through this process in terms of what he needed to do. He went out and did that. But it's now out of our hands. We feel strongly about checking the box and doing the things that we were required to do along the way."
Kelly said the status of defensive end Ishaq Williams, who will not practice for now, is more uncertain. Russell, Williams and two other players, both of whom have departed the program, were suspended a year ago when the school launched an internal investigation into academic misconduct. Russell and Williams sat out the entire season. In 2013, Russell made 51 tackles and broke up eight passes at cornerback, while Williams was a reserve and made only one start.
Notre Dame's fall camp begins Friday.
The return of Russell, a senior, would bolster what is already expected to be a solid defense for Notre Dame, led by linebacker Jaylon Smith. NFL Media analyst Lance Zierlein included Russell on his list of the top 10 defensive backs to watch this season.