Irish Notes: Off to the Fens

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly explains the unique challenges of sharing a sideline at Fenway Park.

It appears that lyrical little bandbox of a ballpark is poised to cause a few logistical issues Saturday evening.

Unique in its short foul poles, jutted rows of seating, bothersome centerfield triangle, and of course the iconic 37-foot wall in left field, Boston’s Fenway Park has at least one irregularity in store for Irish head coach Brian Kelly and his counterpart, Boston College’s Steve Addazio.

They’re on the same sidelines, separated by midfield.

“We had to work a lot of the logistics of getting personnel in and out from the sidelines, which is a little more in-depth than you might think,” said Kelly. “Let’s say (the ball) is not on our side and we need to make some substitutions.  We can leave from the 40-yard line to the back of the end zone and then go behind their team bench. We cannot go and leave the field to the 45. But we can leave from the 40 to the end line and then back around.”

Confused? The players are likely to encounter a few missteps as well.

“The bigger thing is communicating what (package) is going in. Let’s say it’s goal line. Let’s say you’re a (cornerback) and you know you’re out. ‘I’ve got to recognize because I can’t hear it…I’ve got to recognize: Okay, there are some big heavy guys coming in; that looks like goal line,’ because you can’t hear goal line coming in. So we have to add some calls and signals to make sure that all that goes through.”
 
As for how mass substitutions could be affected by the regulations?

“If it’s a 25-second clock in operation, they’re going to let (all) 22 players get on the field,” said Kelly. “That just means the game goes a little longer and everybody stays up later. If it’s a 40-second clock, there’s not much they can do, and that is really not something that affects the defense because off a 40-second clock, any changes that are made, the defense is going to have a chance to match those changes. So it really falls on the shoulders of the offense that if there are any changes down there, you better be ready to get the play off quickly because you’re the one now that’s up against the clock.”

Which begs the question: what’s wrong with exiting the empty side of the field?

ONE IN, ONE STILL OUT

While senior runner C.J. Prosise is poised to return to action, sophomore nose tackle Daniel Cage is not cleared to play this weekend. Both players suffered concussions during Notre Dame’s Nov. 7 win over Pittsburgh, but as Kelly noted last week, each concussion includes its own set of recovery issues.

Kelly noted that Prosise has practiced call week. “He felt good. His words were that he feels like himself again. So he had a good week. He’s got fresh legs. That’s always the first thing you see when he’s had a couple weeks off.”

Prosise will be backed ably by freshman Josh Adams. The rookie straight-liner collected 290 yards on 40 touches while scoring two touchdowns in Prosise’s seven-quarter absence.

CHAMPING AT THE BIT

Kelly offered that injured competitors Malik Zaire (ankle/season), Drue Tranquill (knee/season) and James Onwualu (knee/pending) would travel with the squad this weekend and speak at the team’s Shamrock Series fan fest.

The rest of the traveling squad will treat the trip in a business-as-usual manner. That includes senior nose tackle Jarron Jones, out since mid August with a torn MCL. Feared lost for the year, it appears Jones will be available to the defense for the playoffs and/or bowl game.

“We’re going to travel him this week. He’s getting close,” said Kelly. “He’s made great progress. He’s probably another three-to-four weeks. It’s all about strength of the muscles around the injury. It’s not the injury itself. It’s having enough strength. We’ve just got to get him stronger in certain areas and he’s hit a lot of the targets. I’m pretty certain he’s going to be able to help us in post-season play.”

Also back in the mix is fifth-year senior Avery Sebastian, though in his case, the safety will only play if it means aiding the Irish out of necessity in pursuit of the ultimate goal.

“There would have to be some significant injuries or he’d have to help us win a national championship,” said Kelly of Sebastian who if he does not return to the fray will pursue a sixth season of collegiate eligibility. “He’s practicing every day, learning the defense, and continues to learn every single day. If we get in a situation where we lose some front-line guys and we need to win, we’ll play him. But if we don’t have to, we won’t.”

The graduate transfer has been out since breaking his foot during the season opener against Texas and likewise missed all but the first half of the 2013 season after tearing his Achilles Tendon as a member of the California Bears.


IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories