Trevor Ruhland should not be starting at right guard for Notre Dame on Saturday at Duke. It’s not because he is not talented — any scholarship offensive linemen on the Irish roster has plenty of talent to at least make a spot start. And it’s not just because senior Tommy Kraemer is injured; an MCL sprain is a minor nick and somewhat an inevitability along the line. It is not even because Ruhland always thought his time to shine would come at center, not next to first-year starting center Jarrett Patterson.
It is because, literally, Ruhland should not be on the field. Not at practice, not in games, not at all. After three surgeries on his left knee, two torn pectorals, a broken elbow, a torn labrum, a broken ankle and, just for good measure, a broken nose, doctors told Ruhland to end his career.
“I’m beat up, I won’t lie to you,” Ruhland said after the Irish beat Virginia Tech on Saturday, his first start of the season and sixth of his career. “I’ve been told not to play, that I shouldn’t play because I have the knee of an 80-year-old, [doctors] say.”
That knee sidelined Ruhland in the spring, when he was supposed to finally get his chance to be Notre Dame’s starting center. He had patiently worked as a utility man behind Sam Mustipher for years. That role included starts at each guard position last season, originally in place of injured Alex Bars at left guard and then in a timeshare with Kraemer.