Notre Dame notes: Kelly 'hopes' for field turf

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Notre Dame notes: Kelly 'hopes' for field turf

On Thursday, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said on a radio appearance that "field turf is coming to Notre Dame." During his pre-camp press conference Friday, Kelly clarified that comment.

"I want to go back on that one a little bit, and I want to add one word. I said, 'field turf is coming.' I want to say I hope field turf is coming," Kelly said. "And as you all know, and I've said this a million times, that's above my pay grade. I'm not the one who's rolling out the turf."

Some have bristled at the notion of Notre Dame stadium ditching natural grass for an artificial surface, but it's certainly a preference of Kelly's. Although, the third-year coach emphasized that it's not his call to make.

"Certainly, Jack Swarbrick, that's his domain," Kelly said. "I do not want to do Jack's job, I got enough to do with my own. But I think I've made it pretty clear that I hope that that's where we, but that's clearly not my decision."

Notre Dame not actively recruiting Penn State players

Illinois coach Tim Beckman received some flack last week at Big 10 media day when he admitted members of his coaching staff descended on State College to talk to Penn State players. Those actions were well within the bounds of what the NCAA and Big 10 determined to be legal, but in the face of a majority of coaches saying they wouldn't try to pull players away from Penn State, they were met with some derision.

On Friday, Kelly echoed what coaches such as Wisconsin's Bret Bielema, Ohio State's Urban Meyer and Michigan's Brady Hoke said.

"We treat it as if those players were committed to Penn State, on their roster," Kelly explained. "We kind of used the recruiting scenario. If they were committed, the only way that we would be involved would be if they de-committed, and if they publicly said they were looking to transfer. And if that occurred, and they wanted to transfer, then we would've taken it to the next step. We never got to that point.

"It never became a situation for us that we had to take that next step."

However, class of 2013 Penn State commit William Fuller -- a three-star wide receiver from Philadelphia who committed to the Nittany Lions in early June -- reportedly will visit Notre Dame this weekend.

Kelly looking for more on punt returns

A year ago, Notre Dame players returned 13 punts for 48 yards, giving them the ninth-lowest average yards per return in the country. Kelly decided to put Michael Floyd in for a punt return against Air Force Oct. 8 and elected to keep him there through the rest of the season.

After Floyd was inserted, Notre Dame's average yards per punt return went from 0.3 to 3.69 -- a small improvement, but still, an improvement.

"When you look at the punt return situation from last year, Michael Floyd showed that he could probably be a great punt returner," Kelly said. "If there was a problem with punt return last year, it was that the head coach didn't put Michael Floyd back there quicker."

With evolving punting styles -- rugby-style kicks have become increasingly popular in the last few years -- and rules that permit gunners to race downfield before the ball is kicked, Kelly feels finding a dynamic punter in the mold of a Tim Brown or Rocket Ismail will be difficult.

"The rules changed," Kelly explained. "We had Rocket and Tim Brown, but those rules didn't apply when they played -- not to take anything away from their ability, but we certainly do not want to be where we were last year."

Blackhawks assistant Kevin Dineen appreciates interview opportunities

Blackhawks assistant Kevin Dineen appreciates interview opportunities

Kevin Dineen is back with the Blackhawks but there were times this summer you wondered if another team would take him away.

The Blackhawks’ assistant coach was a major candidate for the Colorado Avalanche head coaching job, according to the Denver Post, following Patrick Roy’s surprising departure. There were probably other inquiries, too.

“It’s always nice to go through a process of talking about the way you do your business. It’s also a reflection of where you are,” said Dineen following the Blackhawks’ White-Red scrimmage on Saturday. “No. 1, you have to get permission to do that, and the Blackhawks have been great about giving me the opportunity to go out and do that. But also, when you have success, a lot of people want to get your feedback or whatever it is.”

Dineen’s name will likely come up whenever there’s a coaching vacancy. He coached the Florida Panthers from 2011-13 and coached Team Canada women’s team to a gold medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics. Dineen will get another opportunity in the NHL but for now, life is good in Chicago.

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“For me, I couldn’t be happier right here,” he said. “I have a great person and hockey mind to work with in Joel [Quenneville]. But you know, down the line, those things play their way out and we’ll see where it goes.”

Arriving soon

Patrick Kane, Ville Pokka and Michal Kempny will join the Blackhawks’ training camp on Tuesday. The three finished up round-robin World Cup of Hockey play with their respective teams on Thursday.

Dineen said there’s a chance one of the defensemen, Pokka or Kempny, play in Wednesday night’s preseason game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“They’ll get into the swing of things here on Tuesday,” Dineen said. “So that’ll give them a good rest after a long, tough September, and we expect them to hit the ice flying.”

Briefly

  • Duncan Keith will skate during one of the Blackhawks’ practices on Sunday and Monday.
     
  • Team White defeated Team Red 4-3 in Saturday’s scrimmage at the United Center. Spencer Abbott led Team White with two goals.

After locking up homefield advantage, Cubs flummoxed by Cardinals in blowout loss

After locking up homefield advantage, Cubs flummoxed by Cardinals in blowout loss

At the end of the day, a loss means essentially nothing for the Cubs right now.

But the Cubs also certainly don't want to hand games to their division rival as the St. Louis Cardinals make a run at the National League wild card spots.

After the Cubs clinched homefield advantage throughout the NL playoffs with the Washington Nationals' loss Friday night, they had no answer for the Cardinals in a 10-4 loss in front of 40,785 fans at Wrigley Field Saturday afternoon on national TV.

A few disturbing trends popped their heads above ground for the Cubs again Saturday, including the offense's struggles at manufacturing runs, Jason Hammel getting shelled and some bullpen woes.

The Cubs had no trouble putting runners on base against Cardinals phenom Alex Reyes, but they had a tough time plating those guys, cashing in only once with a runner on third base in six tries over the first four innings.

In two of those spots, a Cubs hitter came up with only one out, but failed to bring the run home as Addison Russell struck out in the first inning and Kris Bryant popped out to shallow left in the second.

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Hammel recorded only seven outs and was tagged for six runs on six hits and a walk, watching his season ERA rise nearly 30 points to 3.83. The veteran right-hander fell to 15-10 as he attempts to make a push for one of the Cubs' final postseason roster spots.

"Honestly, I would love to be a part of [the playoff roster], as the rest of the guys on the team would love to," Hammel said. "I know there's only a certain amount of spots, so if I'm handed the ball, I'll be ready. That's the way I'm gonna view it.

"Obviously you wanna be a part of something special like that, but I think everybody here has already been a part of something special to get to this point. We're all very proud. We still got eight regular season ballgames left to build some momentum. Whether I'm on the roster or not, I'm still gonna enjoy it."

Hammel was also clearly on the wrong end of some bad luck Saturday, as the four runs he allowed in the first came via a check swing and a couple hits just out of the reach of his fielders. 

Joe Maddon won't put too much stock into one rough start in late September.

"I'm not too worried about a good or bad outing right now. I'm not," he said. "Pretty much, you know who the guy is. You know if the guy's go this stuff going on or if he doesn't. ... The greater body of work matters."

Setup man Hector Rondon struggled in his appearance, needing 26 pitches to notch just one out, giving up three runs on three hits and a walk before handing the ball off to Felix Pena.

Of course, it's also just one game and one loss for a team with 98 victories and hopes of the World Series.

Rondon had been nearly unhittable since returning from the disabled list two weeks ago and the Cubs offense had been efficient and relentless in the past four games after Maddon's meeting with the hitters earlier in the week.

Maddon also used the blowout to get regulars like Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward and Russell out of the lineup to help keep them fresh for October.

After the game, Maddon chose to look on the bright side.

"Our starter had a tough day today; that's it. Otherwise we did some nice things," he said, referencing the solid offensive days from Dexter Fowler and Ben Zobrist. "We had chances to score runs - runners on third, less than two outs - and we didn't fulfill that.

"We made their starter throw 115 pitches in five innings; I think that's a positive."

The Cubs will close out their season series with the Cardinals on another nationally-televised showdown Sunday night between Jon Lester and St. Louis ace Carlos Martinez.