Kyle Rudolph, one of Notre Dame's best players and top NFL prospects, is finished for the season.
The 6-foot-6, 265-pound junior tight end needs surgery after severely injuring his hamstring and his recovery could take six months.
Rudolph, bothered by a hamstring problem in preseason camp, was hurt in Saturday's 23-17 win over Pitt. Coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday the hamstring pulled away from the bone after an injury involving two tendons. Surgery will take place in the next several days.
"Certainly, you lose one of the best tight ends in the country that's a loss. But, you know, not one player is going to stop what we do,'" Kelly said, naming Tyler Eifert, Mike Ragone and Jake Golic as backup tight ends who will need to fill in.
Rudolph, a starter since his freshman season, has 28 catches for 328 yards and three touchdowns this season, including a 95-yarder against Michigan. In his first two seasons, he made 62 receptions for 704 yards and five TDs.
Rudolph was a Mackey Award semifinalist last season and was a key component in Kelly's spread offense. He had to leave the game Saturday against Pitt in the fourth quarter and finished the game with five catches.
"He felt very good before the game. Exertion caused the injury. ... He's a courageous kid and tried to fight through it," Kelly said.
Kelly said he hadn't discussed what the injury will mean for Rudolph's future as far as staying in school or declaring for the draft.
He also added that the team's medical and training staff was steadfast in monitoring Rudolph's previous hamstring problems.
"It was a Sunday conversation, literally with our training staff and doctors. It was a daily interaction we had with Kyle," Kelly said. "Just one of those unfortunate things that occurs in a sport like this, and this is an injury that's unfortunately is becoming a lot more common because of the explosiveness of these young men."
Rudolph, from Cincinnati, missed two games last year with a shoulder injury. He had surgery on the shoulder during the offseason and was limited during spring drills.
But he showed the ability to get open this season and his good hands and ability to run with the ball after the catch gave the spread offense and quarterback Dayne Crist another option — even though he had only one catch each in games against Stanford and Boston College.