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Friday, March 1, 2024
The Observer

Football: Neal, Ferguson leave program

Irish sophomore receivers Davonte' Neal and Justin Ferguson have left the team, Irish coach Brian Kelly announced at a press conference Wednesday.

"Davonte Neal and Justin Ferguson are no longer part of the football program and they won't be in the future," Kelly said. "We wish them the very best in their future endeavors."

The decision by the second-year receivers to leave the program comes on the heels of sophomore quarterback Gunner Kiel's departure from the team, news that broke nearly three weeks ago.

According to ESPN, Neal, Kiel and Ferguson were the top three recruits in Notre Dame's class of 2012. The fourth-ranked recruit in the class, cornerback Tee Shepard, left the Irish last March for undisclosed reasons after enrolling in January.

Neal was ranked the No. 8 recruit in the nation by ESPN and committed to Notre Dame late in the recruiting process, on Feb. 21, 2012. The 5-foot-9, 171-pounder played immediately as a freshman last season, primarily as the punt returner. Neal returned 21 punts for 46 yards, rushed once for seven yards and caught one pass for a loss of five yards.

ESPN ranked Ferguson as the 14th-best receiver in the class of 2012. The Pembroke Pines, Fla., native caught just one pass for nine yards as a freshman.

Kelly refused to delve into details for the transfers.

"I'm not going to get into the specifics of it other than they're no longer with us," he said. "All I can tell you is when that when we break to start stretch and they're not out there they're no longer on the roster."

Blue & Gold Illustrated first reported the transfers of Neal and Ferguson.

Kelly also announced Wednesday that junior running back Amir Carlisle and junior defensive end Chase Hounshell sustained injuries during Saturday's practice.

Carlisle, who missed all of last season with an ankle injury after transferring from USC, suffered a broken collarbone and had surgery Tuesday. Kelly said the injury is a "minor setback" for Carlisle, who will likely be out for four weeks.

"Amir has had a great spring," Kelly said. "We've seen what we need to see out of him. He'll be a very important player for us."

Hounshell, who missed the 2012 season with a shoulder injury, reinjured the same shoulder and will miss the 2013 season. The defensive lineman had put on 20 pounds since last year, and Kelly said the Kirtland, Ohio, native had a great offseason.

"He'll have to have surgery again," Kelly said. "Certainly feel terrible for Chase because he's worked so hard after a second injury. You can imagine how disappointing it is for him and for us, that he's put in so much time and effort in getting back from that."

Despite the roster changes, Kelly said the Irish will be ready come August 31 for the season opener against Temple.

"The roster is going to shift and move," he said. "We're going to have some additions. We're going to have some deletions. But when it's time to kick off against Temple, we'll have the football team that we need to go out and play for a championship."

The next spring practice for the Irish is April 3.

Contact Mike Monaco at