Rees Ready to Roll

Notre Dame senior quarterback Tommy Rees has been cleared for practice this week and is expected to start Saturday in Colorado Springs, Colorado vs. the Air Force Academy.

Irish head coach Brian Kelly is comfortable helping his players push through the requisite strains, sprains, and deep bruises associated with college football. When it comes to the neck and head, the 23-year veteran head coach knows deference to a program's medical staff is prudent.

"The medical team is going to make any decisions as it relates to any neck injuries." Kelly said. "We're not talking about a knee or a shoulder or an elbow. But (Rees) was cleared today to practice. And when you're cleared on Tuesday, your first day of practice, I don't think there's any hesitancy to go out and play somebody when he's cleared so early in the week. He's been cleared by a medical team to practice today."

That's a best-case scenario for both Rees and an Irish offense that proved inept without him. With Rees under center Saturday night vs. the Trojans, Kelly's attack produced 290 yards on 41 snaps not including a nine-yard loss on a vicious sack by USC middle linebacker Lamar Dawson. After the sack that knocked Rees from the contest, backup Andrew Hendrix and his offensive cohorts managed just 23 yards on its next 19 meaningful snaps.

Kelly though said Tuesday that while Hendrix admittedly did not play well, he doesn't expect his senior backup to perform in such a manner if the opportunity arises again.

"I think if he comes into the game again and doesn't perform at the level that he's held himself to, then maybe we can talk in those terms," said Kelly of the need to instill confidence in Hendrix who by previous accounts performed far better in practice. "But I think there's better days for Andrew Hendrix. I think he's going to play better. I think he expects to play better and I expect him to play better."

Offered Kelly earlier, "Hopefully he'll use the experience that he had against USC and he'll take that as a learning experience and translate what he does in practice now into games. He knows what it looks like.  Now it's incumbent upon him as a competitor and he's a competitor. And he wants to succeed. Now he's going to have to take what he does in practice and he's going to have to carry that into games."

Kelly noted that Hendrix would receive "some first team reps" while freshman Malik Zaire would get "some second team reps" this week.

Golson in Contact

Suspended 2012 starting quarterback Everett Golson remains in contact with the Irish staff. Golson is not enrolled in school during his semester hiatus from the University, instead working with renowned quarterback guru George Whitfield in San Diego.

"He's working hard, he's on the West Coast," said Kelly of Golson's fall activities. "He's in a disciplined environment, one I'm very comfortable with. He's in contact weekly, either with myself or with Coach (Chuck) Martin.  He's in contact with our graduate assistant Coach (Pat) Welsh two or three times a week. Just catching up on what we're doing, game plans, staying connected.  He's staying connected weekly from that standpoint."

Big Lou's Been Better

Senior nose guard Louis Nix again proved instrumental in an Irish victory, the team's 24th in his 31 career starts.

Nix though came away from the annual battle with rival USC a bit worse for the wear.

He's sore, he's sore," said Kelly of his All-America candidate. "We're going to be careful with him.  We need Big Lou…he's a great player, and he was battling every play. We showed some clips to the officials where we thought he was targeted on some plays that we weren't happy with. He's a little sore right now. We're going to be careful with him this week."

Kelly added that option football is not Nix's "cup of tea," but that the massive nose guard would play Saturday in Colorado Springs. "You're not going to be two-gapping (Nix's chief responsibility defensively). It's not a two-gap defensive structure. There's a lot of low blocking, a lot of cut blocking. 

"Just for a big guy, that's not the kind of guy, the game you'd like to play, you'd like to get your hands on somebody and really physically try to get your strength -- at Lou's size, he's going to be going against the guy who is 245 pounds.  And he's probably going to be fending off cut blocks most of the game."

So too would sophomore defensive end Sheldon Day, he of the high ankle sprain that kept him from meaningful competition vs. recent foes Michigan State, Oklahoma, and Arizona State. Day returned Saturday night to aid the defensive front vs. USC.

"I think we'll cross that (off) after this game," said Kelly of Day's immersion back into the rotation. "I think we crossed that bridge with him.  He moved well.  He made some nice plays, had a nice play in the fourth quarter where he ran down a 'back on the play.  We feel pretty good about him this week in terms of (the injury) not being in the back of his mind.  I think it was a little bit (against USC).  But I think now we're past that where he can just go and play."

Kelly added that Day's classmate Elijah Shumate could return to action as well, just nine days after suffering a hamstring injury in practice prior to the USC game.

"He's ahead of schedule," said Kelly of his starting safety. "Generally speaking, the PRP for us has been a 10 to 14-day procedure. Now, he's had a hamstring in the past, where he's dealt with this before. We ran him on the treadmill yesterday without pain. 

"He's ahead of schedule.  I'm not ready to declare him ready to play Saturday.  He will go through drill work today and I'll have more to say on him later in the week. He's questionable right now.  He's not out."


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