ND notes: Daniels improving, Diaco rumors not a surprise

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ND notes: Daniels improving, Diaco rumors not a surprise

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Now that Notre Dame's opponent in the BCS Championship is set, the Irish have exactly a month to prepare for Alabama, with the team's first bowl practice scheduled for Dec. 7. And they'll begin that preparation with a fairly clean bill of health.

Zack Martin, who was injured late in Notre Dame's Nov. 24 win over USC, spent five days in a walking boot and looks ready to go for Friday, according to coach Brian Kelly.

"If we were playing Saturday we would've had probably even Zack for the game," Kelly said Sunday evening.

Louis Nix is dealing with a wrist issue, although Kelly gave no reason to believe the jocular defensive tackle won't be ready for practice on Friday.

Notre Dame's wide receiving corps are on track to receive a boost, too, with the return of DaVaris Daniels expected to happen in time for the BCS Championship. Daniels, who broke his collarbone Nov. 10 at Boston College, has caught 25 passes for 375 yards in 10 games this year.

"He's doing really well," Kelly said. "He started moving his shoulder the first week after Chris Brown caught a couple of passes out there, and was really quick medicine for him and he's been on the fast track ever since."

Daniels will begin running non-contact drills this week, getting a few routes down as he progresses to full contact later in the month. That leaves only one key player missing from Friday's opening practice -- Manti Te'o.

The linebacker will be trekking across the country from awards banquets to ceremonies, and won't be able to be with his teammates Friday. Kelly said Te'o is "burnt out" by the slew of honors he's up for, but then again, it comes with the territory of a star player on a No. 1 team.

"I said listen, this week you gotta write it off. It's not going to be a football week for you." Kelly said. "When you have an undefeated football team and a great player, awards generally follow you and this week he's going to do the best he can to work out in the hotels and focus on these postseason awards."

Diaco and BC a match?

As the catalyst for Notre Dame's 12-0 season, Notre Dame's defense has put Bob Diaco squarely in the crosshairs of a few coaching searches around the nation. The most prominent rumor has Diaco linked to Boston College, which makes sense for plenty of reasons explained by Inside the Irish's Keith Arnold.

The prospect of losing the mastermind behind one of the nation's best defenses is certainly a concerning one for Notre Dame fans, but Kelly brushed it off as a product success.

"That means good things are happening in your program," Kelly said, also referencing players potentially passing on a final year of eligibility to enter the NFL Draft. "Those are the kind of problems that I want to be able 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 championships. Those are all things real good programs have to deal with, and we'll deal with them appropriately in the same manner."

Kelly has spoken to Diaco, who's coached under Kelly for six seasons between Central Michigan, Cincinnati and Notre Dame, about becoming a head coach but declined to reveal the details of those talks. If Diaco does depart South Bend for Chestnut Hill, it doesn't necessarily mean the distractions that come with the move will be enough to derail Notre Dame's championship chances, though -- USC fared well enough in 2004 when defensive coordinator Ed Orgeron left for Ole Miss, after all.

As Notre Dame's defense grew its national profile, the chances Diaco would be wooed by a power-conference program only grew. So the latest rumor didn't come as a shock to Kelly.

"I think he's the finest defensive coordinator in the country," Kelly said. "Bob is a bright football coach. We have conversations about it. All I could tell you is that it doesn't surprise me that he's a part of it."

92 Days to Kickoff: Sandburg

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92 Days to Kickoff: Sandburg

CSNChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Aug. 1, we’ll unveil the @CSNPreps Top 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 26.

School: Sandburg Eagles

Head coach: Scott Peters

Assistant coaches: Marty Balle (LB), Kevin Clark (DL), Larry Sheppard (DB/Co-defensive coordinator), Matt Barrett (assistant DL), Bill Mulchrone (assistant LB), Kevin Fahey (OC), Jim Zimmer (OL), Tom Lally (QB), Shane Meyer (WR), Jon Bergin (RB), Mark Lenkiewicz (assistant OL), Darren Monnet (K)

How they fared in 2015: 6-4 (5-2) Southwest Suburban Blue. The Eagles made the Class 8A playoff field, but lost to Palatine in the opening round.

Biggest storyline in 2016: Can the Eagles reload with a new head coach?

Names to watch this season: LB Pat Brucki, DE Mike Murphy, DT Malik Skates

Biggest holes to fill: The Eagles need to replace 11 graduated starters on offense this season. 

EDGY's early take: Peters takes over a Sandburg program that has been winning games but hasn't made a deep state playoff run since the early 2000s. The Eagles bring back just three starters and will need to get up to speed in a hurry this fall, but this school always has talent in the building.

Check out this season's second episode of Chicago Fire All Access

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Check out this season's second episode of Chicago Fire All Access

Check out the second episode of the second season of Chicago Fire All Access.

In this episode, the team helps out in the Chicagoland community, talks about finding comfort foods in Chicago and life on the road in the MLS. 

Bears 'horizontal' leadership plan building on some surprising leaders

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Bears 'horizontal' leadership plan building on some surprising leaders

Sometimes you really do have to just appreciate the attitude. Because Bears coaches do, in ways of significance in what kind of team the 2016 Bears will become.

Ka’Deem Carey has been a backup his first two Bears seasons, yet now finds himself with more games played in a Bears uniform than any other Chicago running back. The 2014 fourth-round draft pick accordingly has set one very lofty 2016 objective for himself:

“Just being a leader, really trying to focus on that,” Carey said during the team’s OTA this week. “We’ve still got a young team, I’m vocal, coaches like the way I run the ball, and sometimes the way I play out there, the coaches like that and want to pass that on to teammates.

“So I’m just trying to be a leader to these young guys.”

Somehow the notion of a 23-year-old talking about setting an example for “these” young guys shouldn’t be dismissed. At all. Because Carey is representative of something developing within the current team.

Leadership is a popular, near-annual topic for Bears teams, no less so early this offseason as the 2016 team takes shape without 40 percent of its elected – and veteran – captains from the 2015 season.

Players elect five captains: two for offense, two defense and one special teams. Coach John Fox names a sixth captain each based on merit from the previous week.

The problem for the Bears is that two of the 2015 five elected captains – running back Matt Forte, safety Antrel Rolle – were not brought back by the organization this offseason. Veterans were added in free agency, but headcount does not translate into instant chemistry, cohesion or leadership.

That falls to a Carey to infuse. Elsewhere, guard Matt Slauson, a popular leader in the offensive-line room and huddle, was released, as was left tackle Jermon Bushrod. After just three NFL seasons, Kyle Long abruptly becomes the offensive lineman with more games in a Bears uniform than anyone else in the O-line room.

Indeed, longevity is no criterion whatsoever for a Bears “leadership” role. Teammates elected Pernell McPhee one of the defensive co-captains last year, his first as a Bear. And linebacker Danny Trevathan, brought in from Super Bowl champion Denver, could emerge as one in his first, using precisely the same calling card that McPhee did.

“I'm just going out there and being an example,” Trevathan said. “It's not hard, you know, I've just got to go out and play the game that I know how to play but also get guys to come along and speak and communicate and be on one page with these guys.”

The key is the “horizontal” leadership concept – leading not from a few at the top, but from multiple strong individuals in a leadership layer.

“Obviously missing Matt Slauson, missing guys like Slauson and Forte, there are large voids to be filled,” Long said. “But this team has been built on horizontal leadership and we’ve done a great job bringing in the right people, defensively, offensively and the special teams unit.

“I love the coaches, I love the guys on this team, I don’t think that will be an issue, so I don’t really have to take on that much bigger of a role because of the guys that we have in our room. Everybody is kind of accountable themselves.”