Notre Dame players focusing on themselves for now
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has bigger things to worry about
right now than defending national champion Alabama.
With the national championship game between top-ranked Fighting
Irish (12-0) and the Crimson Tide (12-1) more than a month away,
Kelly’s main concern is making sure his will be ready to play after
44 days without a game.
”We’re just trying to be better than Alabama on Monday, Jan.
7,” Kelly said. ”So our entire focus will be on a one-game
season, trying to be better on Monday, Jan. 7. So you can
understand, we don’t want to be better than Alabama on the 27th of
Alabama has already shown it knows how to be ready after long
layoffs, winning the BCS title game in 2009 and again last season.
Kelly said he talked to coaches at LSU, Oregon to get advice on how
best prepare for a long layoff and they reinforced his plan of
starting off slow with fundamentals.
Last week and this week, Irish players have been focusing on
conditioning, weightlifting and school work. It’s a chance for
players who may have lost a few pounds to get back up to weight and
gain strength, he said. Notre Dame will hold its first practices on
Friday and Saturday, then hold six more practices before players
head home on Dec. 21. They’ll return to campus for practices Dec.
28-31, and then leave for Miami on Jan. 2. They will practice three
times in Florida before the game.
The early practices will have a preseason camp feel stressing
fundamentals and giving younger players more work, then begin to
fine tune the practices for Alabama as the game draws nearer, Kelly
The time away from the field will help some players. Kelly
mentioned linebacker Manti Te’o specifically as someone who needs a
little time to recover with all the attention he’s been under as he
begins traveling the nation for all the awards he’s up for. He won
the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker on Monday and was
named one of the Heisman Trophy finalists, too.
”He’s burned out. There’s no question. He’s on fumes,” Kelly
Irish players said they’re trying to make the most of their time
away from the field.
”We’re not taking this period off. We’re not taking a break.
We’re going to get after it. We’re going to let our bodies heal,
give it the proper amount of time, but we’re still going to be
doing some stuff to make sure we’re going to be on our A-game,”
safety Zeke Motta said.
Running back Theo Riddick said the Irish are still working.
”You basically have to watch more film, do all the little
things that got you here. You can’t really relax,” he said.
Defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore said he’s not worried about the
”I don’t care if we have to prepare for two months. We’re
playing for all the marbles. I think we’re going to do a good job
with this preparation,” he said.
The Irish also have some distractions to worry about as some
players weigh whether to come back for fifth-years, others put in
paperwork to the NFL to get an idea about where they might be
drafted and some coaches could be considered for openings.
Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco has been mentioned as a candidate
for several jobs.
”That’s a good thing, all three of those things,” Kelly said.
”That means good things are happening in your program. Those are
the kinds of problems I want to have to deal with on a day-to-day
basis because that means that you’re developing your program in a
manner that is putting you in a position to compete for
Kelly expects everyone to be ready to play against the Crimson
Tide. Nose guard Louis Nix is recovering from a wrist injury and
tackle Zack Martin is recovering from an ankle injury. Receiver
DaVaris Daniels, who sustained a broken left clavicle against
Boston College, also is expected to be back.
Kelly said his goal during the six weeks between games – two
days longer than the time between the sixth game of the season
against Stanford and the final game of the regular season against
Southern California – is for the Irish to heal, improve and be
ready Jan. 7.
”It’s a one-game deal,” he said.