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."

With Ben Zobrist sidelined by sore wrist, Cubs move Ian Happ to second base

With Ben Zobrist sidelined by sore wrist, Cubs move Ian Happ to second base

LOS ANGELES – The Cubs drafted and developed Ian Happ with the idea of turning him into a Ben Zobrist-type player who would move quickly through the farm system and surface as a versatile big-league contributor and/or legitimate trade chip.

With Zobrist sidelined because of a sore left wrist, the Cubs got their first look at Happ playing second base in The Show during Saturday’s 5-0 loss at Dodger Stadium. That kind of depth – plugging in a 2015 first-round pick while a World Series MVP rests – should ultimately propel the Cubs over the course of a 162-game season.

Even as the Cubs stutter-step through a 25-23 start, there are enough choices for the best defensive second baseman on the team and a National League Championship Series co-MVP (Javier Baez) to sit on the bench.

“We know that the talent’s there,” Zobrist said. “It’s not like having any one or two guys out of the lineup is a big drop-off for us because of the talent that’s there. And we know that just because we have a lot of young players doesn’t mean that they’re not extremely capable of doing the job as well.”

Zobrist – who’s reached base in 23 straight games and emerged as a new leadoff option with Kyle Schwarber struggling – felt something on an awkward swing in the first inning of Friday’s 4-0 loss to the Dodgers. Zobrist played through it that night and called it a “day-to-day thing” that didn’t require an MRI.

[MORE: Is Joe Maddon turning Kyle Schwarber into a platoon player?

Facing Clayton Kershaw on Sunday after back-to-back shutouts will be a game-time decision.

“It’s tough,” Zobrist said. “We just haven’t strung together enough quality at-bats to score runs the last two games. It’s not just because of us. They’ve pitched well. Their pitchers are pretty hot right now. They’ve spotted up. They’ve gotten early strikes where they needed to and then gone to work pretty well on us.

“The task doesn’t get any easier tomorrow with Kershaw. We just got to keep trying to chip away.”

Morning Update: White Sox officially announce signing of Luis Robert, split doubleheader

Morning Update: White Sox officially announce signing of Luis Robert, split doubleheader

Here are the top Chicago sports stories from Saturday: 

Preview: Cubs look to avoid getting swept by Dodgers today on CSN

Preview: Knights look to bounce back tonight on CSN

White Sox courting of Luis Robert leads to 'Christmas in May'

Cubs blanked again by Dodgers

Tyler Danish gets win in first big league start as White Sox beat Tigers in first game of doubleheader

After getting shut down by Buck Farmer, White Sox ninth-inning rally falls short

Scott Boras fires back at Jake Arrieta’s critics and makes another Max Scherzer comparison

Blackhawks sign defenseman Michal Kempny to extension

Luis Robert will start journey through White Sox organization in Dominican Summer League

With Ben Zobrist sidelined by sore wrist, Cubs move Ian Happ to second base