Step One: Backup Brigade

With its Champs Sports Bowl invitation, Notre Dame was afforded the luxury of 15 potential practices. The bulk of those will feature a nod toward the future.

Irish head coach Brian Kelly has presided over far more playoff wins (11 vs. 4 defeats) than bowl victories, (3) as a college head coach.

But heading into his fifth bowl game, this time against the program's former mid-90s rival Florida State, Kelly is aware that the extra practices afforded can be invaluable for his returning roster, and he believes he's able to strike a balance between preparing for 2012 and trying to win the last game of 2011.

"I think more than anything else is making sure we get some of our younger players some good practice work," said Kelly of his three-week preparation plans. "We know what we have with our veterans. We'll keep their timing. I think the biggest concern for every coach (in bowl preparation) is tackling, and not losing the timing on offense, so we'll be very cognizant of that.

"But I want to give our young guys an opportunity and some practice time as well. We'll crank that up maybe a little bit more than what I've done in the past."

Kelly noted yesterday that sophomore quarterback Tommy Rees remains the starter but his classmate and now official No. 2 Andrew Hendrix will join him taking the bulk of practice reps. Soon-to-be senior transfer Dayne Crist is not expected to be part of the equation this month.

"He's going to have to get a lot more," said Kelly of Hendrix's increased practice preparation. "Dayne and I will have further conversation but the way we left it, he's got a lot of work to do working on his transfer, so he's not going to be able to put the time in necessarily. Andrew is going to have to get a lot of that work so his role will definitely increase in practice."

Hendrix started the second half of Notre Dame's most recent game, a 28-14 loss to Stanford, during which he was saddled with a 21-0 deficit before taking the reigns.

Also earning varsity duty this month will be freshman triggerman Everett Golson, the only member of the regular season quarterback quartet who toiled on the Scout team for most of 2011.

"He'll be in preparations," Kelly said of Golson. "I've always split our (bowl) practices where we have our young guys practicing, and that will be like spring practice, and our veterans will come in another practice format later and prepare (for the game)."

Of course, the true freshman Golson will not play in the Champs Sports Bowl under any circumstances in an effort to preserve a season of eligibility.

"It'll be Tommy and obviously Andrew's show to run and if we get into a bind, we'll even have to crank up Mulvey," Kelly offered of the team's senior walk-on and one of its most popular players.

Kelly vs. the Bowls

Kelly has led three schools to bowl games: Central Michigan, Cincinnati, and Notre Dame, and coached two of them (Kelly took the Cincinnati job after his CMU Chippewas finished 9-4 as MAC champions and qualified for the Motor City Bowl). He is 3-1 in four bowl matchups to date.

  • 2006 International Bowl: Guided his new team, Cincinnati, to a 27-24 win over Western Michigan after joining the Bearcats approximately three weeks prior to the contest.
  • 2007 Bowl: Kelly's 10-3 Cincinnati Bearcats held off Southern Mississippi 31-21 to finish 17th in the final Associated Press Poll.
  • 2009 Orange Bowl: Following an 11-3 2008 season in which the Bearcats won the Big East Championship to earn a BCS berth, Kelly's Bearcats dropped a 20-7 decision to ACC Champion Virginia Tech. The Hokies finished #15 in the final A.P. Poll while Kelly's crew again landed at #17.
  • 2010 Sugar Bowl: Kelly left the 12-0 Bearcats for the Notre Dame job in December 2009. Cincinnati later lost to Florida 51-24 to finish #9 in the final A.P. Poll (the Gators landed at #3). (The contest is not part of Kelly's official coaching record.)
  • 2010 Sun Bowl: Kelly's unranked Irish hammered unranked Miami, 33-17, to finish the season at 8-5 (Miami fell to 7-6). Top Stories