Twenty-seven seniors will be honored Saturday afternoon inside the House that Rockne. Included among them are six graduate students, and that sextet will enjoy its second straight senior day, a modern reality noted by Irish head coach Brian Kelly Thursday evening.
“(They’ll be) playing in Notre Dame Stadium for maybe their last time…Maybe not, but we’ll see what happens,” he offered.
Eight of the team’s 12 scholarship seniors retain eligibility for the 2016 season though at least one, left tackle Ronnie Stanley, will doubtless move onto the NFL.
PROSISE PREPARES FOR ACTION
One of the 27 to be honored, senior running back C.J. Prosise, might do so without the added benefit of between-the-lines action thereafter on Saturday afternoon.
“(He) took part in football activities today. Looked good,” said Kelly of Prosise, whose chief concern is a potential concussion along with a nagging shoulder injury aggravated last weekend against Pittsburgh. “We’ll see what (doctors) have to say after practice.
“We still haven’t made a decision. But he had a good day today. I don’t have any…It’s not my decision to make, really,” Kelly continued. “It’s in the hands of the doctors, but he looked good to me.”
Kelly noted that Prosise did not practice Wednesday and regardless of his status, Irish fans would see a healthy dose of freshman Josh Adams and his lesser-used classmate, Dexter Williams.
“They’ve had a great week of practice, but I’m not going to rule (Prosise) out. He would like to play if he’s capable. So we’ll see where it goes. It might be a game-time decision.”
Prosise did not take hits at practice as part of the concussion protocol. Kelly noted that his leading rusher’s shoulder injury is something Prosise will have to fight through the rest of the year.
Man Down: Out for Saturday and for the foreseeable future is backup wide receiver and special teams starter Equanimeous St. Brown. Brown landed on his shoulder in a one-on-one drill, an MRI is pending.
“Separation of the ligaments and all that is pretty complicated,” said Kelly. “I think it’s really about for him, in particular, is it a surgical procedure? What we don’t want to do is put the kid off (delay surgery) where he doesn’t get an off-season for weight training. He’s going to be a dynamic football player. We have to make some decisions whether this is an injury that he can come back and play in 4-6 weeks or if it’s going to be longer, we’re going to repair it. And we wont’ have that information until the MRI.”
GREAT NEWS…ON HOLD
The surprise of Notre Dame’s media access this week was junior Will Fuller’s offering (and reiteration) that he plans to return for his senior season – a Notre Dame degree highest among his reasons.
Kelly had yet to speak to his offensive MVP about the decision, but it was clear that nothing is set in stone – at least from the head coach’s perspective.
“I’ve told all these guys I’ll sit down with them. I put together folders for each one of these guys. Each one of these kids has different circumstances as to why they would come back or why they would entertain looking at the draft,” said Kelly.
“Will’s got some factors that we have to talk about relative to staying or going that I need to communicate with him. I’d love to see him come back, but we’ve got to see where it all shakes out at the end of the year.”
Kelly’s reaction to what appeared to be outstanding news for his football program appeared lukewarm. Apparently that’s just a coach looking out for his player.
“Oh, absolutely. I don’t want to make it sound like I don’t want him back. I’m very pleased, very pleased to have him back,” Kelly said. “But I think it’s important that each one of these guys…that we talk about the process with them.”
Notre Dame’s triumvirate of offensive brainpower has thrived through nine games, with Kelly, associate head coach Mike Denbrock, and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Mike Sanford guiding the Irish offense to the best statistical season at Notre Dame since the halcyon days of the Holtz era.
-- 7.2 yards per play including 5.7 yards per rush, plus whopping 37.1 points per game (would be a program record) and 42 touchdowns, which puts them on pace for nearly 60 trips to pay dirt, a total that would rank second in program history over 13 contests.
Kelly was asked Saturday what the new face among the trio, Sanford, brought to the equation and to the quarterbacks room.
“First and foremost, he has brought out some of the very important traits that quarterbacks have to have. It starts with some of the most important things: confidence in the quarterback position is absolutely crucial. He’s able to instill a confidence in the quarterback.
“He’s able to also get his quarterbacks to communicate effectively. We’re a no-huddle team. It’s very important that they do a great job communicating at the line of scrimmage, both verbally and non-verbally.
“And the other thing is when we talk about developing the skills of the quarterback, it’s one thing to say he’s got a big arm or he’s got this. But you have to be able to translate those skills as well. He’s done a great job of developing those skills on a day-to-day basis.”
Kelly noted that Sanford’s experience playing the position, growing up around the program (his father, Mike, was quarterbacks coach under Bob Davie for two seasons) and previous work as an offensive coordinator at Boise State has proved crucial to his understanding of the big picture.
“The passing game, the running game, protections. There’s no question that he sees the whole thing, and when you can see it from 30,000 feet as well as you’ve played the position, understand the magnitude of it here at Notre Dame as well, it gives you a perspective of that position that’s pretty unique,” Kelly said.
Irish quarterbacks have accounted for 26 touchdowns against just six turnovers (no fumbles lost) this fall.