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Football: Rees cleared to practice

Mike Monaco | Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Senior quarterback Tommy Rees has been cleared to practice and is in line to start on Saturday against Air Force, Irish head coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday.

Rees left the USC game Saturday with a neck sprain after he was slammed to the ground on a third-quarter sack.

“We believe that Tommy’s going to be ready,” Kelly said Tuesday. “He was cleared today to practice. So we’re moving forward that he will be the starter. … Knowing that it’s Tuesday, we feel a lot more confident that Tommy will be prepared and ready for Saturday.”

In the immediate aftermath of Notre Dame’s 14-10 victory over USC, Kelly said Rees was very sore and they would know more on his status in the next 24-48 hours. On Sunday, Kelly said Rees was day-to-day.

Rees will still be monitored by doctors throughout the week, according to Kelly.

“We won’t overwork him in practice, but we’ll prepare him accordingly. … He’ll get the first two or three reps and make sure that he’s functioning properly and then we’ll pull him out. We’ll get Andrew some first-team reps and get [freshman quarterback] Malik [Zaire] some second-team reps and just make sure that he’s functioning and progressing during the week.”

Before leaving Saturday’s win early in the second half, Rees completed 14 of 21 passes for 166 yards and two touchdowns. In his stead, fellow senior quarterback Andrew Hendrix played the remainder of the game. Hendrix was 0-for-4 passing and rushed six times for five yards. Kelly said Hendrix, who had received praise from Kelly earlier in the season for his impressive practices, would receive more reps throughout the week.

“Looking good in practice and playing in the games, obviously, are two different things and I think what Andrew has to do he’s got to take that practice now and he’s got to take that into games,” Kelly said. “And 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.”

Hendrix has played in six of Notre Dame’s seven games and completed one of 10 passes for nine yards. The senior has rushed 12 times for 17 yards.

“I think there’s better days for Andrew Hendrix,” Kelly said. “I think he’s a better player than what he showed against USC. I think he’s got to calm his emotions down. I think he’s capable of much more. I have much more confidence in his ability to come in and play better football. And I expect he will.”


Defending the option

Air Force (1-6, 0-5 Mountain West) enters Saturday’s contest with the Irish (5-2) ranked 12th in the nation in rushing offense, averaging 268.6 yards per game out of an option attack. Seven different Falcons have totaled at least 100 yards on the ground this season.

The last times these teams squared off, in 2011, Notre Dame won 59-33 but allowed 565 yards of total offense to the Falcons, including 363 rushing yards on 60 attempts.

“[The option] is something that you don’t see and prepare for so it’s difficult in its preparation, because you have to be so disciplined to face it,” Kelly said. “And you know the game of football, especially on defense, is that you want to play a little bit reckless at times. And it really slows you down and forces you to play assignment football and takes away sometimes that skill advantage that you have, that size advantage becomes minimized in some instances, because you have to play so disciplined and play assignment football.”


Injury updates

Kelly said sophomore safety Elijah Shumate, who missed Saturday’s game with a hamstring injury suffered on Thursday, is ahead of schedule and has not been ruled out.

“We ran him on the treadmill yesterday without pain. Pain‑free,” Kelly said. “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.”

Defensive tackle Louis Nix left briefly in the second half against the Trojans but later returned. Kelly said the mammoth nose guard is sore and they’ll be careful with his usage.

“He’s banged up. He’s sore,” Kelly said. “And he’s a guy that we’re going to count on and we’ve got to be careful with him and I think Big Blue loves to play.  He’s a competitor. But we just have to be judicious in how we practice and how we play him.”

Kelly later added that sophomore defensive end Sheldon Day, who missed two games and was limited in another before playing against USC, has “crossed the bridge” and his injury is in the past.

Notre Dame squares off with Air Force at 5 p.m. EST in Colorado Springs, Colo. The game will be broadcast on the CBS Sports Network.

Contact Mike Monaco at jmonaco@nd.edu