Health of the Irish improving heading into Senior Day battle with BYU

Brian Kelly would like his seniors to go out with a win in their final game at Notre Dame Stadium Saturday when the Irish welcome in BYU but Kelly knows that won't be easy.

"Last year's game came down to the wire and more importantly they are having a terrific season," Kelly said of BYU.

Notre Dame escaped with a 17-14 win over BYU last year at Notre Dame Stadium. This year the Cougars are 7-3.

The Irish will go up against a Cougars defense that Kelly has a lot of respect for.

"They're a team that gets turnovers and a team that gets team to go 3 and out," Kelly explained.

And BYU now boasts a new offensive system this season that likes to run upwards of 90 players in a game. That's forced Kelly to focus on tempo in practice as the Irish look to adjust. He says its an adjustment on both sides of the ball since the Irish can't afford 3 and outs giving BYU more time with the ball.

The good news for the Irish is that the bye week has allowed the team to improve its health. Plagued by injuries, Kelly did not have his team practice at all last week--the first time in his coaching career he has done that.

Instead, Notre Dame practiced on Monday--and did a lot of 11-on-11 work for Kelly to gauge who was healthy enough to play this week against BYU. Kelly liked what he saw, knowing a lot of the guys who did work out Monday would not have been able to do so last week.

"Nobody took a step back from yesterday's pretty vigorous practice," Kelly said.

While that doesn't mean everyone will be able to play Saturday, Kelly said there is no one that is definitely out for the game against the Cougars at this time.

Nose guard Kona Schwenke (ankle) is looking better and linebacker Ishaq Williams (knee) remains day-to-day, Kelly explained.

The other obstacle for the Irish this week is that it is after all Senior Day, the final time for seniors to play at the House that Rockne Built. A day that always comes with distractions and emotions.

"Its always a concern," Kelly said of what you are going to get on Senior Day. The emotional impact is always measured. You certainly don't want your players playing emotionally. You want enthusiasm. We will talk about the emotions of playing in that last game and the enthusiasm."

Among the seniors playing their last game at Notre Dame Stadium is quarterback Tommy Rees, who has had an up and down career that has seen him start games at quarterback in every season that Kelly has been the Irish head coach.

"Certainly a young man I will miss," Kelly said of Rees. "I love his competitiveness and drive. He loves Notre Dame and understands the distinctions of Notre Dame. He's a Notre Dame guy."

This senior class were the ones recruited by Charlie Weis but stuck around during the transition between coaches and have played their entire careers for Kelly. That includes captain and wide receiver TJ Jones, who Kelly says viewed football more individually than team wise early on in his career.

"I didn't talk about TJ the first couple of years and now all I do is talk about TJ because he's all about the team now. He's made that progression over his time here."

On the defensive side of the ball--there's nose guard Louis Nix, who has become a mega star and crowd favorite for his physical presence and outgoing personality.

"Don't let Louis Nix fool you," Kelly said. "He can come off as funny and aloof but he's also very smart. He wanted a degree from Notre Dame."

More than anything, all the Irish seniors want one last win at Notre Dame Stadium. Kickoff Saturday is at 3:42pm. You can watch the game on WNDU-TV with Countdown to Kickoff getting you started at 2:30."

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