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Notre Dame TE Alize Jones ruled academically ineligible for 2016

The ‘Horns won’t have to face the playmaking sophomore in the season opener.

NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl-Notre Dame vs Ohio State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Despite being hailed as a team with a plethora of offensive weapons, Notre Dame will have one less to throw at Charlie Strong’s Texas team. Sophomore tight end Alize Jones has been ruled academically ineligible for the 2016 season, according to head coach Brian Kelly.

Jones was touted as the fourth best tight end in the nation for the class of 2015 by Rivals, and the 133rd-ranked player overall. The dynamic 6’4 playmaker only made 13 receptions for 190 yards in his freshman season, but his athleticism and size made him a potential X factor for Notre Dame in the 2016 season.

Notre Dame may be fortunate that junior tight end Tyler Luatua backed out on his transfer to BYU and will remain with the program, but he is primarily a blocker. The Fighting Irish also have junior tight end Durham Smythe, who missed most of the 2015 season after a shoulder injury. However, Smythe has only one reception in his career.

The news is particularly damaging because the Fighting Irish must deal with a depleted air attack after losing star wide receiver Will Fuller to the first round of the NFL Draft, as well as fellow pass-catchers Chris Brown and Amir Carlisle. Senior Torii Hunter, Jr., is the only target returning who has proven himself as a reliable threat — he had 28 receptions in 2015 and was a go-to option in Notre Dame’s spring game.

For Texas, Jones’ mismatch potential being taken out of the equation should aid a young defensive unit which will consist of two sophomores at corner and very few experienced players.

After an embarrassing 38-3 loss to the Fighting Irish in 2015, will Jones’ absence prove to be an equalizer for Texas this season? With a month left until Texas faces off against Notre Dame at Darrell K. Royal Stadium, all Longhorn fans can do is anxiously wait.