Rees cleared to practice; expected to start Saturday at Air Force

Tommy Rees was cleared to practice on Tuesday and unless there is a setback this week, Rees will be on the field when the Irish travel to Colorado Springs to face Air Force this weekend.

"We believe Tommy will be ready," Kelly said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. "We are moving forward that he will be the starter. We are all very confident on Tuesday, that Tommy will be prepared and ready for Saturday. I don't think there's any hesitancy to go out and play someone when they're cleared so early in the week."

"As long as Thursday looks good and he feels great on Thursday, then we move into Saturday without any hesitation," Kelly said.

Rees left Saturday's 14-10 win over USC in the 3rd quarter after being driven to the ground on a sack. He suffered a "neck strain" as a result. Kelly didn't specify what exactly the issue was with the neck on Tuesday.

"When they get into neck, head and those kinds of injuries--I stay away from those," Kelly said. "The medical team is going to make decisions based on neck injuries."

Kelly says the Irish will be careful with Rees at practice this week and not try and over work him. He will be monitored by the coaches and doctors and he will be prepare accordingly.

That means giving more reps to backup Andrew Hendrix and freshman Malik Zaire in practice. Kelly has said in the past, they are hoping to not use Zaire---to preserve a year of eligibility. Hendrix struggled Saturday in relief of Rees. Andrew ran more than 20 plays, failing to complete a pass on four attempts. The offense was stagnant.

"I think there are better days for Andrew Hendrix," Kelly said. "I think he's a better player than what he showed against USC."

Kelly says the constant changes at quarterback are nothing new--regardless of the reason.

"We're prepared for it at this point," Kelly said. "This has not been the easiest run in four years here at Notre Dame with quarterbacks."

Dayne Crist started the Brian Kelly era as the Irish quarterback but was replaced in two different seasons by Rees. Everett Golson took over last year and led the Irish to the BCS National Title game. But Golson was suspended from school for the entire fall semester after showing 'poor academic judgment' back in May. Golson is currently scheduled to return to Notre Dame in January. He's not enrolled in school right now and is training in California.

"He's working hard," Kelly said of Golson. "He's in a disciplined environment, one that I'm very comfortable with."

Kelly says Golson stays in weekly communication with Kelly, offensive coordinator Chuck Martin as well support staff and those on the academic side.

Meanwhile as the Irish prepare to face Air Force Saturday, there's no clear indication who will start at quarterback for the Falcons. Kelly says that doesn't matter as much because it’s the system--the option--that the Irish have to be prepared for rather than individual players. Kelly says they don't see the Academies' style of the option enough to prepare for it properly. He says it sometimes takes away the skill advantage his players might have.

A case in point to that is Notre Dame nose guard Louis Nix.

"Option football is not his cup of tea," Kelly said of his top player.

Nix is also battling a shoulder injury and Kelly says the Irish will have to be careful with Big Lou this week.

Meanwhile defensive end Sheldon Day returned to action against USC and made significant contributions. Day has been battling an ankle injury for the last several weeks that caused him to miss a lot of time.

"We feel pretty good about him this week about that not being in the back of his mind," Kelly said of Day.

Notre Dame will also have to prepare for the altitude and elevation change as they head to Colorado Springs but as Kelly points out, there is nothing the team can really do to prepare for that.

The Irish are all on fall break this week, so that means no classes. Kelly says they aren't doing too much more with the players. The team is providing brunch for the players and practicing a little earlier in the day. That gives the players a little more free time. Kelly says for the most part, they are trying not to disrupt the routine too much.

The game Saturday will kickoff at 5pm EST and will be broadcast on the CBS Sports Network.

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