Notre Dame football notebook: Hendrix's role likely to grow

ERIC HANSEN
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND - It’s not about blurring the line between No. 1 and No. 2 on the quarterback depth chart at this point, but just having some role in the Notre Dame offense, how ever fragmented, that has Irish senior Andrew Hendrix playing with renewed energy and turning heads in practice this week.

“I think he was a lot more engaged, just locked in a lot more relative to every little detail of the offense,” ND head football coach Brian Kelly said Thursday evening after practice.

How that will translate to Saturday night’s Shamrock Series matchup between Notre Dame (3-2) and 22nd-ranked Arizona State (3-1) at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas (7:30 EDT; NBC-TV), depends on the flow of the game and whether Hendrix can replicate his practice performances against the Sun Devils.

Kelly is fully committed to exploring the complementary quarterback concept, with fellow senior Tommy Rees still very much the starter. Hendrix’s effectiveness has a lot to say with how long and how deep that commitment will go.

Hendrix has attempted just 50 passes in his 3½ seasons at ND — one fewer than Rees amassed against Michigan alone earlier this season, but his running prowess (213 career rushing yards on 38 carries) and ability to throw the deep ball theoretically provide the Irish some weapons that Rees can not.

Kelly employed the strategy in 2011 as well with the same two QBs, with mixed success. Last Saturday in a 35-21 loss to Oklahoma was the first time since then Kelly has cobbled together a game plan with both QBs in it since the end of that season.

Hendrix rushed five times for 10 yards against the Sooners, and sailed his lone pass attempt intentionally out of bounds to avoid the rush.

“I don't know that you can go into the game and say, ‘Well, I'm just happy with a half-dozen snaps,’ ” Kelly said of the mind-set he’s trying to funnel to Hendrix. “I hope that — and the way we presented it to Andrew is — ‘Look, you've got to help us win. You've got to help us win football games.’

“So his mind-set has to be, ‘Look, I want to keep adding more to my plate. I want more and more.’ But he's got to be more effective than he was on Saturday. He can't go in there and we get two false-start penalties. We can't miss a wide-open receiver. We've got to do a better job on our zone read.

“So if he's going to get more on his plate, he's got to be more productive, and we need him to be more productive.”

Field of screams?

The divot squad worked overtime on Notre Dame Stadium’s grass field Saturday during and after ND’s 35-21 loss to Oklahoma.

On Thursday, the school took a more drastic step, essentially re-sodding the entire field from goal line to goal line.

“We’re hopeful that’s going to give us a better surface,” said Kelly, whose team next plays at home on Oct. 19 against USC.

Kelly’s long-term hopes remain having the artificial surface FieldTurf installed. The Irish practice on FieldTurf on a daily basis at the LaBar Practice Complex.

“I’ve made it pretty clear what I want for a surface,” he said, “and that has not come to fruition at this point. But we’re going to put the grass down, and we’re hopeful that that’s going to get us through the season.”

Day back in the mix

After a false start last Saturday, it appears starting defensive end Sheldon Day will finally rejoin the Irish lineup this Saturday night per Kelly.

The sophomore missed the past two games with a right ankle sprain he suffered Sept. 14 in a win at Purdue.

“We were able to get a little bit more out of him (in practice),” Kelly said. “I think we’ll see some gains over the next 48 hours, but he definitely is going to play on Saturday. I don’t know that you’re going to see 50-60 reps, but he’s going to be on the field on Saturday.”

Bryant likely to redshirt

Kelly confirmed Thursday what had been percolating for the past week, that freshman running back Greg Bryant will exit ND’s crowded backfield picture and likely sit out the rest of the season and pursue a medical redshirt year.

The freshman running back and former five-star recruit from Delray Beach, Fla., has played in three games for the Irish — the max a player can participate in and still be eligible for a medical redshirt. He has run for 14 yards on three carries and has played on special teams.

Kelly said Bryant has a severe case of patella tendinitis. and will undergo platelet-rich plasma therapy over the next four weeks.

“It’s a treatment for, generally, soft-tissue injuries,” Kelly said.

Recruit-a-palooza?

The efforts to get Notre Dame in front of recruits with the Shamrock Series has been implemented every season, but the expected visitors for Saturday’s game in Arlington, Texas, has reached a new level.

At one point in the week, the number of expected recruits was as high as 65 — most of them juniors, according to CBS Sports recruiting analyst Tom Lemming. The South Bend Tribune confirmed plans with 26 prospects as late as Thursday afternoon.

“There’s absolutely no comparison between this expected group and the previous off-site games,” Lemming said.

Calling the group “spectacular,” Lemming said the list is not only impressive in length, but also with future star power in the 2015 class.

The Notre Dame staff has worked for weeks inviting prospects from Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. Among the 2015 Texas prospects expected in attendance include running back Soso Jamabo (Plano, Texas), cornerback Kendall Sheffield (Missouri City, Texas) and defensive tackle Daylon Mack (Gladewater, Texas). All three rank in Lemming’s Top 100 for 2015.

Squibs

•ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.’s new Big Board of top NFL prospects this week had Irish nose guard Louis Nix moving down two spots to No. 5, and defensive end Stephon Tuitt rising three spots to No. 12.

•Just as ND does in its on-campus home games, the Shamrock Series will feature a Friday kickoff luncheon (Fort Worth Worthington Renaissance Hotel ballroom, 11:30 a.m. CDT, open to the public; tickets available at http://www.nddallas.org); a Friday night pep rally (General Worth Square at 9th and Main streets in downtown Fort Worth, free and open to the public; 6 CDT) and a Mass (Saturday morning at 10 a.m. CDT at St. Patrick Cathedral; 1206 Throckmorton St. in Forth Worth), with Notre Dame president Rev. John Jenkins as celebrant and homilist (open to the public).

•How many people does AT&T Stadium hold? The regular capacity of the stadium is 80,000 counting standing-room tickets. It could stretch as high as 100,000 with temporary seating. The capacity for Saturday night’s game is 72,000, because no standing-room tickets are being sold.

So far, roughly 67,000 tickets have been sold.

Arizona State was allotted 15,000 tickets, and the Dallas Cowboys were allotted 3,000 for local sales. The rest were sold through Notre Dame.

Staff writer Tyler James contributed to this story.

Notre Dame QB Andrew Hendrix has a great week of practice and should see more playing time this Saturday against Arizona State. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN