Herald news services
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly announced Tuesday that senior cornerback KeiVarae Russell was fully cleared by the NCAA and will be eligible to play with the Irish this season.
“KeiVarae Russell was fully cleared by the NCAA and is back with us,” Kelly said during Notre Dame’s media day.
Russell, a star at Mariner High School, was one of five Notre Dame players suspended in August of last year amidst an academic fraud investigation. He missed the entire 2014 season.
Russell also announced his return on his Instagram account, writing “(hashtag) ThankYouNotreDame I’m back…”
Russell has been practicing with the team this fall. He started the first 26 games of his career, earning 2012 freshman All-American honors and landing on multiple 2014 preseason award watch lists before the school opened an inquiry into what it called “potential academic dishonesty” in the summer of 2014.
His return should provide a boost to a Notre Dame defense that struggled at times against the pass last season.
“I think KeiVarae was rusty coming in (to camp). He really needed to be here, and it’s great that he’s gotten to work,” Kelly said. “… When you’re out of pads for a year, you can’t duplicate by jumping on boxes.”
Kelly said that defensive end Ishaq Williams, another of the five suspended players, was still appealing in an effort to play.
Wide receiver DaVaris Daniels, safety Eilar Hardy, and linebacker Kendall Moore were the other players suspended. Hardy has since transferred to Bowling Green.