Notre Dame junior nose tackle Louis Nix III, who has missed the past two games with a knee injury, is expected back in the lineup Saturday when the Irish meet Pittsburgh.
Nix (6-foot-2, 357 pounds), the nation's premier nose tackle, missed wins over Air Force and Navy, and his return comes at a good time for an injury-ravaged Irish defense.
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Kona Schwenke, who started for Nix the past two games, was injured during the Navy game and will miss at least a week. Backup outside linebacker Ben Councell was lost for the season to an injury suffered against Navy. Starting defensive end Sheldon Day re-injured an ankle against Navy, and it is 50-50 as to whether he will play against Pitt. And backup outside linebacker Ishaq Williams missed the Navy game with a knee injury and may miss the contest against Pitt, as well.
Coach Brian Kelly's mantra regarding injuries always has been "next man up," but he says that is getting hard to do.
"We are running out of next men," he told reporters at his weekly Sunday news conference. "We're at that point where from a defensive standpoint, and particularly the defensive line, we're left with very few options. It becomes an issue now where we have to be very creative in what we're doing and how we're doing it."
Day's health will be key. If he can go, the Irish -- who use a 3-4 set -- will have their usual complement of starters along the line. But if he can't play, true freshman Isaac Rochell could get the start and depth would become an even bigger issue.