ND notes: Daniels improving, Diaco rumors not a surprise

954797.png

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."

Elena Delle Donne scores 18, leads Sky over Wings

elena_delly.jpg

Elena Delle Donne scores 18, leads Sky over Wings

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) - Elena Delle Donne had 18 points and eight rebounds to help the Chicago Sky beat the Dallas Wings 92-85 on Sunday.

Courtney Vandersloot added 15 points and nine assists, Cappie Pondexter scored 14 and Erika de Souza had 12 for Chicago, which is sixth in the AP power poll.

The Sky (13-13) had an 18-1 run spanning the first and second quarters to make it 40-16 on de Souza's basket with 6:09 left in the first half.

The 10th-ranked Wings (9-18) cut the deficit to 60-54 in the third quarter but Chicago answered with a 12-3 run. From there, the Wings trailed by double-digits until a late 13-2 run brought them within 90-85 with 15 seconds left.

Odyssey Sims scored 22 points and Skylar Diggins added 16 to lead Dallas, which dropped its eighth in a row.

Cubs close out road trip with narrow loss to Dodgers

Cubs close out road trip with narrow loss to Dodgers

LOS ANGELES – Joe Maddon watched John Lackey board the team bus on Sunday morning wearing a Team USA onesie. The Cubs manager later noticed Aroldis Chapman in pajamas in the clubhouse on his way out to the dugout for his pregame media session at Dodger Stadium.

“We’ve created our own little culture, our own little identity,” Maddon said. “I just love the fact that they buy into those moments. Your stars are buying into it.”

The Cubs are in their own world, followed like rock stars on the road, freed from baseball’s unwritten rules and checked out from the daily anxiety and scoreboard-watching stress during a normal pennant race. 

But this afternoon still had a playoff-type atmosphere, with a crowd of 44,745 watching a scoreless game finally pivot in the eighth inning. Cubs reliever Trevor Cahill hit Andrew Toles with a pitch, jammed Howie Kendrick and threw the soft groundball into right field. An intentional walk to Corey Seager loaded the bases, setting up a matchup between Carl Edwards Jr. and the heart of the Los Angeles lineup.

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

The rookie unleashed a 97-mph fastball and struck out Justin Turner on a foul tip. Edwards then went right back at Adrian Gonzalez, inducing a chopper toward third baseman Javier Baez, who threw the ball to second base. The Cubs missed escaping the jam by a split second, with Seager’s right foot sliding into second just before Ben Zobrist’s left foot touched the bag.

That would be the difference in a 1-0 loss that again showed the narrow margin between these two big-market, first-place teams. The Cubs needed 10 innings to secure a comeback win on Friday night before Los Angeles won one-run games on Saturday and Sunday at Dodger Stadium.  

The Cubs would still leave Los Angeles with a 14-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals, their magic number to clinch the division now 20, ending a West Coast trip with a onesies theme almost exactly one year after Jake Arrieta threw a no-hitter at Dodger Stadium, showing this team would be a force in October.

With John Lackey ramping up for return, could Cubs go to six-man rotation?

With John Lackey ramping up for return, could Cubs go to six-man rotation?

LOS ANGELES – John Lackey is ramping up for a return to the rotation and all those “Big Boy Games” the Cubs are supposed to play in October.

The Cubs expect Lackey to test his strained right shoulder and throw two bullpen sessions this week, manager Joe Maddon said Sunday at Dodger Stadium. If everything goes smoothly for the two-time World Series champion, the Cubs will tentatively schedule Lackey’s next start for either the Labor Day weekend showdown against the San Francisco Giants at Wrigley Field, or near the beginning of a three-city road trip in early September.     

Lackey (9-7, 3.41 ERA) has accounted for 158-plus innings, making 24 starts and stabilizing the rotation before going on the disabled list on Aug. 15. Jason Hammel should eventually cool off and will be “well-rested” after Maddon’s quick hook on Saturday afternoon at Dodger Stadium. The Cubs also like what they’ve seen from Mike Montgomery, believing the lefty can develop into a solid big-league starter.

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Could the Cubs go to a six-man rotation down the stretch?

“We haven’t planned that specifically yet,” Maddon said. “I’m not opposed, let me put it that way. We’ll see how it all plays out with Mikey the next time through. Again, to do anything we possibly can to conserve our arms for the end of the year is important. 

“It’s being proven throughout the industry right now. Moving forward, the biggest trick there is to get the sixth guy that you like. Most teams are clamoring to get (No.) 4 and 5. We got five that we like. Now we’re working on 6.”

It’s not like the Cubs are fighting for a wild-card spot or clinging to a one-game lead in the division. The best record in baseball allows them to look at the big picture and get creative in September. The counterargument to keeping starters fresh for October would be keeping creatures of habit like Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta in a rhythm. 

“Starting pitchers have always rallied to say that they need to stay on that particular plan,” Maddon said. “But I think it’s kind of been proven – just give them that extra day or two on occasion and it really benefits them. So I just think you’re fighting this old view of specifically how it needs to be done."