Kelly, Notre Dame get ready for another QB battle

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Kelly, Notre Dame get ready for another QB battle

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Brian Kelly isn't shutting any more doors with regard to his starting quarterback against Navy Sept. 1. He's already closed one, suspending Tommy Rees -- Notre Dame's most experienced quarterback -- for the game. But beyond that, Kelly is open to anything.
Even playing multiple quarterbacks.
"I think everything's on the table," Kelly said. "I don't know that we've taken anything off the table relative to the quarterback position. Ideally I'd like to have one quarterback and have him be the guy. But we won't know until we get out there, put the pads on, get live action and see how these guys react to those scenarios and situations."
Interceptions plagued Notre Dame's quarterbacks last season, as Rees, Dayne Crist and Andrew Hendrix combined to throw 17. Plenty of those were costly, and may have been the difference between nine or 10 wins instead of the eight Notre Dame registered for the second consecutive season.
With Rees out, the Irish starting quarterback battle for the season opener will be between Andrew Hendrix, Everett Golson and Gunner Kiel. Hendrix and Golson are likely the favorites heading into pre-season camp, which starts Saturday, over the true freshman, but there's no reason why that couldn't change over the next few weeks.
"Early on, we've gotta be able to see three quarterbacks, and as we move closer to finding if there's a separation, then we'll start to separate the reps," Kelly explained. "But we don't go into practice one saying he's getting 80 percent, he's getting 20 percent or he's getting 7030. We're not at that point."
Last year, Kelly named Crist as the team's starting quarterback on Aug. 23. He and his coaching staff don't know when they'll decide on a starter yet, but as Kelly put it, "we'll know it when we see it."
Golson wowed fans with a solid performance in Notre Dame's spring game April 21 and didn't turn the ball over in that contest. But Kelly said after that game that Golson had to imrpove calling plays in game situations, something Irish coaches appear to be trying to correct this summer.
"We'll be doing a lot more 11-on-11," Kelly said. "We've gotta put our players, in particular the quarterback, in as many situations that put 11 players out on the field at one time. Half-line, 7-on-7, inside drill -- all great drills. Don't get the quarterback to the level we need to. A lot more 11-on-11 for this football team to help us answer this question."
For Hendrix, Kelly feels the sophomore needs to get more reps to improve. But he went through some growing pains in 2011, just as one may expect Golson and Kiel to go through in their first years of non-redshirt or collegiate action.
Kelly, however, won't tolerate the mistakes, no matter if they're due to inexperience.
"I don't have any patience for that," Kelly said. "You know me, I want it done the right way. But we have to have a quarterback we can trust, that's going to take great care of the football, that's going to get us in the right plays. As we move forward here, it's developing that trust with our quarterbacks, and not accepting anything less than that level of trust in taking care of the football. That was the emphasis this spring, and that will continue to be the emphasis.
"The starting quarterback against Navy is the guy we believe carries those traits with him, and we can trust that he makes good decisions."
In that quote, Kelly alluded to Hendrix (taking care of the football) and Golson (getting in the right plays). Rees certainly falls into the former category, and while he won't start the first game, he will get a portion of the reps in practice before his teammates depart for Ireland in late August.
"Certainly not every rep that you take is a rep toward Navy," Kelly said. "They'll be opportunities for Tommy to stay sharp."
Kelly said in a statement released after Rees' suspension was announced that the junior could "attempt to climb the depth chart" after he's reinstated. If Hendrix, Golson andor Kiel struggle Sept. 1, there certainly exists the chance that Rees returns to his starting role when Notre Dame returns to South Bend to face Purdue the next week.
"Honestly, if we get the guy and he starts against Navy and he doesn't play very well, I don't want him to start next week," Kelly said. "But I would like, like everybody else, to prepare somebody and have a great game against Navy and then make it a difficult decision what you do in Week 2."
Attention to detail has been Kelly's mantra since last season's turnover-laced opener against USF. But as he kept preaching it to his team and to the media, Notre Dame continued to turn the ball over.
2012 is a new year for Notre Dame, and Kelly would rather stop having to verbalize that point.
"It's probably better that we save that talk for action," Kelly said. "That's what this year's about. It's doing it, not talking about it. That will probably be the theme as we move forward this year."

Jim Thome: Getting into baseball Hall of Fame would be indescribable

Jim Thome: Getting into baseball Hall of Fame would be indescribable

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Normally upbeat and positive, Jim Thome can’t help but beam with pride when asked about his Hall of Fame candidacy.

Thome, who blasted 612 career home runs, including 134 with the White Sox, is eligible for induction for the first time in 2018. Even though he’s expected by many to one day be voted into Cooperstown, perhaps even in his first year, Thome said he’s merely honored to be on the ballot. Thome is joined on the ballot by Chipper Jones and former teammate Omar Vizquel, among others. Voting begins in December and the results will be announced next January.

“To even be on the ballot and thought of, it would be the greatest honor I think you could get,” Thome said. “Or if you get an opportunity to go into the greatest fraternity baseball has or created, it would be indescribable. How do you ever think as a kid or a high school player or even going through the minor leagues, that you’d play at the big leagues that long? And then to get an opportunity at the end of your career to be put on the ballot is so great.

“That would be the coolest moment ever.”

Thome – who is in White Sox camp as a special assistant to the general manager – provided plenty of big moments in a career that spanned 22 seasons. He hit 30 home runs in 12 of 13 seasons between 1996-2008, leading the league with 47 in 2003. The slugger was a five-time All-Star and produced 72.9 b-Wins Above Replacement.

[RELATED: Brett Lawrie trying to clear final hurdles]

Thome isn’t as superstitious about his candidacy as others previously have been. He won’t be the guy to bring up the topic, but the Peoria, Ill.-native doesn’t shy away from discussing it, either.

“It’s not something you talk a lot about,” Thome said. “We’re not going to bring it up. But when people do bring it up, there’s a sense of pride, a sense of ‘Wow, baseball has thought that highly to put you on the ballot.’ And the fact that there’s just this wonderful fraternity of incredible players that you could be a part of, if you’re chosen.”

Cubs manager Joe Maddon misses his chance to guest-star in ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’

Cubs manager Joe Maddon misses his chance to guest-star in ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’

MESA, Ariz. – This is a big bowl of wrong: Cubs manager Joe Maddon might have missed his only window to make the "Curb Your Enthusiasm" cameo appearance Jeff Garlin promised. 

Garlin – a Second City alumnus and one of several celebrity fans within the team's orbit – had offered Maddon a role whenever Larry David brought the band back together for the loosely scripted HBO comedy.

But last week's Cactus League media event at the Arizona Biltmore conflicted with filming in Southern California, where "Curb Your Enthusiasm" is working on a ninth season after a five-year hiatus.

"There was one matchup, and I couldn't get there," Maddon said before Sunday's World Series rematch against the Cleveland Indians at Sloan Park. "I just couldn't do it. It'll happen."

During an all-over-the-place session with reporters that lasted 20-plus minutes, Maddon declined to make any Oscar predictions, saying he's into Netflix and Hulu now and doesn't really go to the movies anymore.

Maddon also hasn't watched much – or any – of the World Series highlights or documentaries. When it came to the handling Aroldis Chapman part, there were some boos inside Chicago's Civic Opera House during the premiere of Major League Baseball's "The 2016 World Series."

But Maddon said he basically skipped that type of content after being Mike Scioscia's bench coach for the 2002 Anaheim Angels and managing the Tampa Bay Rays to the 2008 World Series.

"You get busy and I don't know," Maddon said. "I need to start reading more and watching Netflix less."

Didn't you say that last spring?

"I did," Maddon said.

Maddon had been addicted to cable news during last year's polarizing presidential campaign: "But, damn, it's gotten really annoying, so I stopped watching all that stuff. It's just not good for your brain. It's really not. There's nothing to be gained."

When Maddon starts rolling, it's not hard to picture him in a scene with David and J.B. Smoove. Shaquille O'Neal, John McEnroe and Bill Buckner are among the sports figures with "Curb Your Enthusiasm" credits.

"That was the only day, so I don't know how we're going to figure this out," Maddon said. "First, they had one day set up, and that was going to be good. And then they had to change it to this other day, which was not good. So we'll have to (come up with something else), even if it's maybe a picture on the wall or a phone call."