Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees has been cleared to practice Tuesday after suffering a neck injury in Saturday's 14-10 win over USC. Coach Brian Kelly said he'll be evaluated throughout the week, but doesn't anticipate a situation in which he won't be ready for this Saturday's game against Air Force.
"As long as Thursday looks good and he feels great on Thursday, then we move into Saturday without any hesitation," Kelly said. Thursday is the last day Notre Dame practices before traveling to Colorado Springs for Saturday's game.
Getting Rees back is good news for Notre Dame, which saw its offense grind to a halt after he was injured against USC. After Andrew Hendrix took over, Notre Dame's offense gained just 28 yards on 21 plays.
Given how bad things looked without Rees, Kelly said he'll have Hendrix and third-string freshman Malik Zaire take more reps in practice this week. Hendrix will see first-team reps throughout the week, while Zaire will see more second-team reps.
The plan Notre Dame has for Zaire hasn't changed -- they'd still like to redshirt him if possible -- but for Hendrix, Kelly and his staff need to find a way to get practice success to translate to game day.
"Hopefully he'll use the experience that he had against USC and he'll take that as a learning experience and translate what he does in practice now into games," Kelly said. "He knows what it looks like. Now it's incumbent upon him as a competitor and he's a competitor. And he wants to succeed."
What we've seen of Hendrix before the USC game wasn't as bad as his stat line (0/4 passing, six rushes, five yards) would indicate. He hasn't looked good in his sporadic playing time in 2013, but going back to 2011 he had some success -- including a 78-yard run against Air Force.
Compounding Hendrix's troubles against USC were some missed blocking assignments on read option plays Notre Dame relied on after Rees' injury. Kelly said the blocking left Hendrix "out on some islands" despite the quarterback making the right read.
There's a lot to fix if Notre Dame needs Hendrix for extended minutes again, but Kelly's confident the necessary improvements will be made.
"I think there's better days for Andrew Hendrix," Kelly said. "I think he's going to play better. I think he expects to play better and I expect him to play better."