Andrew Hendrix is a better player than he showed at USC. This much Brian Kelly is certain of, what with nearly four full years of practice reps under his watch and the promise Hendrix showed during some extended action toward the end of the 2011 season.
But that must translate into production when Notre Dame needs it, something that was not there in the second half of Saturday's 14-10 win over USC.
Tommy Rees is cleared for practice and all indications are that he will get the start against Air Force, but the sense of urgency has certainly been elevated down the quarterback depth chart in light of a seven-drive, one-first-down, 0 for 4 passing performance from the Irish with Hendrix running the offense.
"Looking good in practice and playing in the games, obviously, are two different things, and I think what Andrew has to do he's got to take that practice now and he's got to take that into games," Kelly said Tuesday. "And 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.
"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. Now he's going to have to take what he does in practice and he's going to have to carry that into games."
Hendrix will see more action with the first team this week as insurance. Likewise, true freshman Malik Zaire will receive more No. 2 reps, though burning his redshirt after seven games is essentially a worst-case scenario for the Irish at this point.
Kelly said Hendrix's sample-size is not big enough to be concerned more about his game performance.
"I think he's got to calm his emotions down," Kelly said. "I think he's capable of much more. I have much more confidence in his ability to come in and play better football. And I expect he will."
As for the original No. 1 signal caller, Everett Golson remains in San Diego under the tutelage of quarterback guru George Whitfield until he can potentially be reinstated to Notre Dame after committing an academic violation that cost him this semester and the Irish their leader for this season.
"He's working hard," Kelly said. "He's on the West Coast. He's in a disciplined environment, one I'm very comfortable with. He's in contact weekly, either with myself or with [offensive coordinator Chuck] Martin. He's in contact with our graduate assistant Coach (Pat) Welch, two or three times a week. Just catching up on what we're doing, game plans, staying connected. He's staying connected weekly from that standpoint."
Notes: Sophomore safety Elijah Shumate (hamstring) is questionable. … Notre Dame will be careful this week with redshirt junior noseguard Louis Nix (shoulder), who is sore and, in Kelly's words, not a fan of option football. … Kelly felt sophomore end Sheldon Day crossed a bridge Saturday in his first extended action since suffering an ankle sprain Sept. 14 at Purdue. … Bennett Jackson is fine after taking some hits Saturday to his surgically repaired shoulder. … The school's fall break this week and this weekend's game in the high altitude of Colorado won't affect preparation much, Kelly said.