Notre Dame notes: Kelly explains Wood suspension

867203.png

Notre Dame notes: Kelly explains Wood suspension

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame will be without its leading returning rusher when the team opens its season Saturday in Dublin, Ireland. And the decision to suspend senior back Cierre Wood was entirely coach Brian Kelly's call.

"This is strictly an independent decision that I made relative to the decisions that those young men made," Kelly said Tuesday. "And they violated the rules that our players know, and the rules that they know every single day about being in this program."

Wood and defensive lineman Justin Utupo are suspended for the Navy and Purdue games, while quarterback Tommy Rees and linebacker Carlo Calabrese are suspended for just the Navy game. Last year, Kelly didn't suspend star wideout Michael Floyd for any regular-season games following an arrest for DUI, but he was suspended for most of spring practice. Floyd was reinstated to the team for fall camp Aug. 3, and went on to become a gameday captain by the end of the season.

Kelly lauded Floyd's transformation off the field last season, and hopes the same scenario plays out with his four suspended players for Week 1.

"The ultimate goal is we want them all to turn out like Michael Floyd's situation, where they make life decisions to change the way they are," Kelly said. "And so the ultimate goal is to get -- with any kind of sanctions or any kind of suspensions, we want better citizens. We want more accountable citizens. We want people representing our program in the right way."

With Wood out, Theo Riddick and George Atkinson III will take on increased roles in the Notre Dame offense, while running back-turned-cornerback Cam McDaniel has returned to the backfield. However, USC transfer Amir Carlisle will not be available Sept. 1, Kelly said.

Still, the Irish have enough running back depth to shoulder the loss of Wood, especially against a pair of teams that ranked in the bottom third among rushing defenses in 2011.

"You understand that as a head coach with 18 to 22 year olds, that you hope that everybody makes good decisions all the time. I hope my son makes good decisions and my daughter," Kelly said. "I think we all get disappointed, but we also know that they are young and we want them to learn from the mistakes that they made. And in this instance, we are hoping that's the case for Cierre and Justin, I'm very confident that they will learn from their mistakes."

Now lining up at wideouteveryone?

Notre Dame's two-deep depth chart was released this week, and none of the team's talented young pass-catchers were listed as starters. But that hardly means they're pigeon-holed into a No. 2 or No. 3 slot in the X, Y or Z positions.

"You're going to need your media guide as it relates to the wide receiver position, because they are all playing," Kelly said. "Each one of them right now has a different skill set. Nobody is polished to the level where they are a stand alone player at the receiving core other than Tyler Eifert. He's a stand alone player."

There's no single receiver likely to replace Michael Floyd's 2011 numbers -- 100 catches, 1,147 yards, 9 touchdowns. But Kelly is hoping Notre Dame's fairly deep crop of wide receivers -- and a hybrid back in Theo Riddick -- can do the job just as well as one player did in 2011.

"You also have veterans that are going to get an opportunity: John Goodman, we know about Robby Toma; Danny Smith who has been with our program, he's going to get an opportunity to play -- DaVaris Daniels, Chris Brown, Justin Ferguson, Davonte Neal, and I've probably left out a couple others," Kelly said. "They are all going to have to play collective roles in our offense."

Te'o, Eifert headline Irish captains

Last year, safety Harrison Smith was Notre Dame's only permanent captain, with other players cycling in as gameday captains during the season. In 2012, the Irish will have four captains, all seniors: Manti Te'o, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Tyler Eifert and Zack Martin.

"What struck me more than anything else was when they got up before their teammates, the things that they said about being a captain at Notre Dame, and in one particular instance, Kapron Lewis-Moore was brought to tears," Kelly said "You love the see the passion and love for Notre Dame, their teammates, and they are great representatives.

"I think that's what I'm most excited about is we have got great leadership, not only amongst our seniors, but our veteran football players, and it's set a great model for our younger players to follow."

Bears need to find solidarity on revamped offensive line

dc_bears_release_slauson_and_rolle_05-01_640x360_677557315809.jpg

Bears need to find solidarity on revamped offensive line

Overshadowed in the aftershocks of the Bears’ release of veteran guard Matt Slauson (and safety Antrel Rolle) was another roster trim this offseason that went largely ignored because four days earlier, the Matt Forte non-return had gone down. That was the release of Jermon Bushrod, as much a fixture for two years at left tackle as Slauson was at left guard.

Probably because Bushrod had been replaced by Charles Leno Jr. last season as the starter, Bushrod’s exit had been expected since mid-year as he struggled with injuries. Bushrod had voiced his own farewell address late in the season.

But Bushrod, as with Slauson, was a core member of a group that arguably needs to be closer-knit than any other position group. Bushrod and Slauson were mentors to Kyle Long and to even Leno as he was replacing Bushrod, if anyone needs a character testimonial.

While coaches and GM Ryan Pace are on record stating that the best five offensive linemen will start, which points to positions for each being determined through this offseason, that also demands cohesion, which the group had with Bushrod and Slauson.

Bears history is replete with solid centers who anchored and fused lines together: Jay Hilgenberg, Jerry Fontenot, Olin Kreutz, Roberto Garza, even Bulldog Turner and Mike Pyle, looking further back. One key was that each was the best lineman in the group, or close to the best. That makes leading easier, when you’re secure and very good.

Hroniss Grasu is neither at this point of his career. Manny Ramirez is a new guy and on a one-year deal at age 33. Meaning: Who is the linchpin of an offensive line on whom the healths of Jay Cutler, Jeremy Langford and others rest? Kyle Long is the Bears’ best offensive lineman and a force in more ways that just talent-wise.

The challenge for the Bears projects to be less finding talent to replace Slauson in particular, but finding the individual and collective character to make the whole thing work. This is about more than just the 2016 season.

Preview: White Sox aim for 20th win in series finale vs. Red Sox on CSN+

sox_ventura_on_how_defense_helps_pitching_and_sleeping_easy_05-04_640x360_679522883701.jpg

Preview: White Sox aim for 20th win in series finale vs. Red Sox on CSN+

The White Sox aim for win No. 20 in their series finale against the Boston Red Sox tonight on Comcast SportsNet Plus. Coverage begins with White Sox Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Henry Owens (0-0) vs. Erik Johnson (0-0)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

[SHOP WHITE SOX: Get your White Sox gear right here]

— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the White Sox: All of the most recent news and notes.

— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with White Sox Pulse.

David Ortiz paces Red Sox past Carlos Rodon, White Sox

sox_rodon_don_t_throw_a_fastball_down_the_middle_to_big_papi_05-04_640x360_679684163610.jpg

David Ortiz paces Red Sox past Carlos Rodon, White Sox

Carlos Rodon hasn’t been too far off the mark in his outings early in 2016.

His April 18 start aside, the team’s 2014 first-round pick has thrown the ball very well. Yet six starts into his sophomore campaign, Rodon has a 1-4 record.

The young White Sox left-hander made only one big mistake on Wednesday night and Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz took advantage. Ortiz’s fifth-inning home run off a Rodon fastball got the Red Sox on track and they tacked on several runs late to snap a three-game winning streak for the White Sox, who fell 5-2 in front of 14,383 at U.S. Cellular Field. Jose Abreu homered, but that was all for the 19-9 White Sox, who were stymied by seven sharp innings from Clay Buchholz.

“Just one pitch, and that’s the name of this game I guess,” Rodon said. “One pitch changes the game pretty dramatically. That’s why people love baseball I guess.”

Rodon has discovered the importance of one pitch several times this season.

He threw an outstanding game in his first start at Oakland on April 6 only to be felled by an opposite-field homer by Mark Canha. In his last turn in Baltimore, Rodon was on cruise control before his defense did him in. Later in the contest, Rodon allowed another opposite-field blast to Nolan Reimold, which sealed the southpaw’s fate.

On Wednesday, Ortiz taught him a lesson after Rodon issued a two-out walk to Xander Bogaerts with the White Sox leading 2-1 in the fifth. Rodon left a 1-1 fastball over the plate and Ortiz turned on it and drove it 397 feet to right on a windy, cold night.

“Don’t throw a fastball down the middle to Big Papi,” Rodon said.

It was the sixth homer of the season and 509th of his career for Ortiz, who is set to retire after the season ends.

But Big Papi wasn’t done yet.

He followed a pair of one-out singles in the seventh inning with one of his own against Zach Duke. Ortiz beat a White Sox shift and dribbled a single through an open spot on the left side of the infield to drive in run No. 22 on the season and put Boston ahead 4-2. The Red Sox added another run in the eighth.

Ortiz, 40, is hitting .311/.404/.633.

“He comes up big in certain situations,” White Sox leadoff man Adam Eaton said. “Ortiz is a heck of a hitter, and he’s gonna make you pay.”

The White Sox couldn’t do the same with Buchholz, who entered the game 0-3 with a 6.51 ERA. Eaton said the right-hander kept them off-balance by using all five of his pitches. Buchholz appeared to have trouble keeping the ball down in the first as Eaton flew out deep to left ahead of a Jimmy Rollins single and Abreu’s two-run homer, his first since April 19. Abreu’s fourth homer snapped a 61-plate appearance drought and put the White Sox ahead 2-0.

But Buchholz settled in and retired 19 of the last 22 batters he faced, including 10 in a row.

He limited the White Sox to two runs and three hits while striking out six.

“We got off well there, Jimmy getting on and Jose hitting a homer, but we can’t stop there,” Eaton said. “You know as an offense you can’t stop there.”

A lack of run support has also been an early theme in Rodon’s starts.

The team has scored a total of 10 runs with Rodon on the mound in six starts. Entering Wednesday, his 2.1 run support average per nine innings ranked 67th among 73 qualified starters, according to baseball-reference.com.

The limited backing has often left Rodon -- who minus his April 18 start against the Los Angeles Angels has a 3.03 ERA -- susceptible to one mistake costing him the game.

“I think he learns something every time out there,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “There's something to be gained from it and for him, he's going to be better for it. He's got great stuff, a competitor and all that, but you always learn stuff as you're going through this. Even looking at Sale or Quintana, they're still doing things and you learn something every time you're out there. Carlos is no different.

“We know he's a good pitcher, but even the good ones run through tough stretches.”