NOTRE DAME — Tommy Rees has been cleared to practice after suffering a neck injury against USC.
Head coach Brian Kelly said the Notre Dame medical staff will monitor Rees throughout the week but expects the senior will be ready to start against Air Force.
“And when you’re cleared on Tuesday, your first day of practice, I don’t think there’s any hesitancy to go out and play somebody when he’s cleared so early in the week,” Kelly said at a media conference on Tuesday, Oct. 22. “And so he’s been cleared by a medical team to practice today.”
Notre Dame’s starting quarterback left the field with a sprained neck after being sacked in the second half in the team’s 14-10 win against Southern California. He did not return to the game.
Rees’s likely return is good news for Notre Dame’s offense, which couldn’t function after his injury.
Rees, who finished 14-of-21 for two touchdowns, was on pace to throw for over 350 yards before going down early in the third quarter against USC. Notre Dame’s up-tempo offense came to screeching halt under the direction of Rees’ replacement, Andrew Hendrix.
Hendrix finished 0-of-4 with five rushing yards on six carries. The team had 262 yards under Rees and just 33 under Hendrix.
Hendrix is still listed as Notre Dame’s No. 2 quarterback in front of freshman Malik Zaire. Because Kelly wants to maintain Zaire’s redshirt status, he’ll give Hendrix more work in practice to be better prepared to take over the offense.
Kelly said Rees will not be “overworked” in practice this week, allowing plenty of reps for Hendrix and Zaire.
“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 of Hendrix. “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.”
Because his sample size has been so limited this year, Kelly thinks things will only look up from her for the redshirt senior after last weekend.
“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.”
Notre Dame (5-2) travels to Colorado Springs, Colo., to play Air Force (1-6) on Saturday.
Kelly said he’ll be “careful” with Louis Nix (shoulder), who is sore and not a fan of the type of offense Air Force runs. “Option football is not his cup of tea,” Kelly said of the 340-pound nose guard.
Sophomore safety Elijah Shumate (hamstring) is questionable. Shumate didn’t dress against USC.
Kelly said defensive end Sheldon Day finally “crossed the bridge” in his first chunk of action following an ankle sprain in Week 3. “I think now we’re past that where he can just go and play,” Kelly said.