Irish resume practice ahead of College Football Playoffs
SOUTH BEND, Ind. - About 12 hours after wrapping up its annual Echoes Awards show to appreciate the work the team has put in thus far, Notre Dame football was right back at it in preparation for the College Football Playoff.
Saturday's light practice marked the first official practice (beyond conditioning sessions) of the postseason, and head coach Brian Kelly said he saw a group that returned "very locked in and purposeful" in its approach to the December 29 meeting with the Clemson Tigers.
"That's energizing as a coach," Kelly said, "to go back out there with your team and watch them run around today with so much energy, and really being honest with you, very purposeful. It does not feel like in any way another practice in any other postseason that I've been a part of."
In many ways, this postseason is different than others before it.
While Notre Dame has never taken bowl games lightly, they have used them to get younger talent some big-game experience. That has meant some different personnel getting more work in the practices leading into those bowls.
This time, there is a trip to the National Championship on the line against Clemson. So instead, Kelly said the work in the next three weeks will be focused almost solely on preparing the first- and second-string players for the Cotton Bowl.
"Preparation is key," he said. "I think we have a very good plan put together, bringing us right up to when we send them home then get back together at the bowl site (in Dallas). I think we have a good plan that will get them peaking at the right time."
Kelly said the Irish will arrive in Dallas on Dec. 23, one day before originally planned. The staff believes that will not only allow the players to better celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas with their with travel already out of the way, but will also help the team settle in to feel more like a game week.