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."