SOUTH BEND -- Cierre Wood was feeling the heat Saturday and Monday, and it had nothing to do with the Notre Dame junior's new tag-teammate at running back, Theo Riddick.
Irish head football coach Brian Kelly decided to crank the thermostat in the Loftus Center during practice in an effort to get his team acclimated to the conditions they'll experience in Orlando, Fla., as they prepare for the Dec. 29 Champs Sports Bowl matchup between ND (8-4) and No. 25 Florida State (8-4).
The forecast calls for a high of 80 degrees on Saturday, the day the Irish players report to Orlando, and highs in the 70s and lows in the mid-to-upper 50s in the days leading up to the game.
"It was extremely hot in there," said Wood, ND's offbeat 1,000-yard rusher. "At first, I didn't know the heat was on. I thought something was wrong with me."
Kelly said a number of his players experienced cramping on Saturday due to the sudden temperature shift, but that subsided with Monday's session.
A full-contact session Tuesday from noon to 1:45 p.m. will be ND's final practice in South Bend. The players will be released to go home afterwards, then will meet up in Orlando by 2:30 p.m., on Saturday.
The primary focus continues to be the progression of the quarterbacks, who will face the nation's No. 4 scoring defense on Dec. 29, in Florida State.
Kelly named sophomore Tommy Rees the starter for the bowl game eight days after pulling the incumbent at halftime of ND's 28-14 loss to Stanford in the regular-season finale, Nov. 26. But he is committed to playing backup Andrew Hendrix, also a sophomore, against the Seminoles.
"I've seen improvement," Kelly assessed, when asked about Rees. "Some of the things we wanted Tommy to improve on were essentially decision-making, the ability to put the ball in good positions, and we've worked hard in dropping eight in coverage and him being patient with the football. I think he's done a nice job.
"Andrew just continues to learn more and more of the offense, feels more comfortable with protections. (It's) more the technical aspect of the game. So that's been great for him."
Kelly still hasn't made up his mind how much he'll use Hendrix and whether it will be a flow-of-the-game-type decision.
"We know he's going to play," Kelly said. "He's prepared to play. I don't know how it's going to eventualize itself. I haven't said in my own mind what it's going to be, but I know he's going to be in the game."
As for ND's opening-day starter, impending transfer Dayne Crist, the senior visited Wisconsin over the weekend and could have a decision about his landing place as soon as Tuesday.
Crist is expected to choose between the Badgers and Kansas, where the man who recruited him to South Bend, Charlie Weis, is now the head football coach.
Still in limbo
Notre Dame junior tight end Tyler Eifert continues to ponder whether
to leave two years of college eligibility on the table and submit his
name for the 2012 NFL Draft.
"We've had a number of conversations, and we're still having those
conversations," said Kelly of the 6-foot-6, 249-pounder, who was named
first-team All-America by the Walter Camp Foundation. "I think (a
decision) is going to come here very quickly."
The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft is Jan. 15.
According, to Scott Wright of NFLDraftCountdown.com, Eifert would be
the No. 1 tight end prospect in the draft if he decided to come out,
but that distinction would be blurred if Clemson's Dwayne Allen and/or
Georgia's Orson Charles, both juniors, jumped into the draft pool.
"I would project Eifert early second round if he came out this year,
similar to where (former Irish tight end) Kyle Rudolph went last
year," Wright said. "But if he came back to ND next year, there's a
chance he could work himself into a top 20 pick."
Eifert's 57 receptions this season were the most by a tight end in the
FBS in 2011 and broke former ND All-American Ken MacAfee's 34-year-old
school record for receptions in a season by a tight end. Eifert's 713
receiving yards were second-most in the FBS among tight ends this
Not in limbo
After originally counting on outgoing offensive
coordinator/quarterbacks coach Charley Molnar to help coach in ND's
bowl game, Kelly reversed field and said Molnar needs to focus on his
new job as the head football coach at the University of Massachusetts.
"It's difficult sometimes -- you want to try both," Kelly said Monday
after first announcing his change of heart on his radio show last
Tuesday. "I've been in that situation. It's not easy, but Charley's
going to strictly focus on his work for UMass. Having said that, we've
all picked up the slack."
Kelly has been the team's primary offensive play-caller all along and
has always spent most of his time in practice with the quarterbacks.
He is strongly considering promoting from within for the vacant
offensive coordinator position, but didn't rule out an outside hire.
Kelly's goal is to bring in a new assistant coach, whatever the title,
by Jan. 4.
"We don't want to be short on the recruiting end of things," Kelly
said of his self-imposed deadline. "We're not going to put ourselves
in that position."
Not in limbo II
More than a week after it was reported that Irish running backs coach
Tim Hinton would be staying at ND and not joining Urban Meyer's staff
at Ohio State, the topic still won't go away.
"I was really concerned about it," Hinton said with a smile about the
persistent rumors. "My wife called and said, 'It's running on TV.' I
said, 'I wish someone would tell me.'
"The bottom line is I'm coaching at Notre Dame as long as I can. I
love ND. This is a phenomenal place. I was a high school coach for a
long period of time, for certain reasons. A lot of those are the
values of the game of football.
"I still believe in developing young men's characters, developing the
whole person, developing the opportunities for them to be successful
in life. I've really not gotten into the football-factory mentality.
That's important to me. Well, there isn't a place that sells that and
does that better than Notre Dame."
For the first time since rolling his ankle on Oct. 1 against Purdue,
senior defensive end Ethan Johnson is considered 100 percent.
Johnson started all eight games he has played in this season, but has
missed four games completely and was limited in several others by the
injury, which in turn helps explain why he has a career-low 14 tackles
on the season.
nþKelly said leading receiver Michael Floyd and a couple of other
players were affected by the flu during the past week but are back to
100 percent now.
He said there are no new injuries that would affect a player's
availability for the bowl game.
-- The Chicago Bears promoted former Irish running back Armando Allen
from the practice squad to the active roster. They also signed another
former Irish running back, Robert Hughes, to the practice squad.
-- Former Irish linebacker Brian Smith was promoted this week from
practice squad to active roster for the Cleveland Browns.
-- Notre Dame recruit Ronald Darby was named to SI.com's high school
All-America first team as a cornerback. Two Irish recruits were named
second-team -- wide receiver Deontay Greenberry and defensive lineman
ND's most recent commitment, offensive lineman Ronnie Stanley, was
named honorable mention.
-- Irish recruit Justin Ferguson, a wide receiver from Pembroke Pines,
Fla., was named to the 2012 U.S. Under-19 National Team on Monday.
The U.S. team will play an international squad in the third-annual
International Bowl, Feb. 1 in Austin, Texas. Ferguson joins fellow ND
recruits Darby and Greenberry, offensive lineman Mark Harrell and
defensive back Tee Shepard on the U.S. squad.
Staff writer Eric Hansen:
Kelly turns up the heat on Irish
Echograph, the app acquired by VimeoFebruary 14, 2013 1:49 PM EST
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