One of Notre Dame's best defensive players is headed out the door.
Defensive end Aaron Lynch, who led the Fighting Irish with 5.5 sacks and 33 tackles in 12 games as a freshman last year, is leaving after the spring semester to return to his home state of Florida.
"Aaron recently approached me about his desire to leave Notre Dame and return to Florida," head coach Brian Kelly said in a statement. "I've always known and appreciated the affinity Aaron has for his home in Florida.
"However, the stark reality is you can't make it at Notre Dame if your head and heart are not here. I am proud of the effort Aaron made in the classroom and on the field at Notre Dame. I wish him all the best in the future."
Lynch, who is from Cape Coral, Fla., would make any of the Sunshine State's major programs happy. And according to reports,. it looks like South Florida will probably be his destination. Bruce Feldman reported that Notre Dame has restricted Lynch from transferring to Florida State, Florida or Miami. Skip Holtz is doing the happy dance. However, Lynch will have to sit out a year unless he can show the NCAA that he has a hardship reason for transferring, which doesn't seem to be the case.
As for Notre Dame, coach Brian Kelly downplayed how much the Irish are going to miss Lynch. Truth is, outside of Manti Te'o, Lynch was the best returning defensive player, especially with top tacklers Harrison Smith and Robert Blanton having graduated. Lynch's departure really effect Te'o, who was able to get in on the quarterback while Lynch occupied the offensive line. That tandem had been one of the strengths of the Irish's 3-4 defense.
For Lynch to go all the way through spring and decide to transfer has to be a little frustrating because the coaching staff could have spent spring football working out Lynch's replacement. But Kelly, who tried to talk Lynch into staying, said he needed to give Lynch time to make his decision. Chase Hounshell is the current backup, but other possibilities include, Sheldon Day, an early enrollee, and Kapron Lewis-Moore, whom Kelly said would be the new starter for now. Lewis-Moore, a fifth year senior, has the experience, but isn't as talented. Hounshell has no game experience and has missed spring with injury.