QBs embracing game-like situations

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Andrew Hendrix is a pre-med major, so forgive him for the long-winded analogy. But the way the rising junior sees it, being a quarterback is both an art and a science.

By the staff adding checks to Saturday's open practice for the first time this spring, Notre Dame's quarterbacks were able to reveal just how far along they had come in each subject.

"The science and the board, doing things in the playroom, it has to translate on the field," Hendrix said. "And today that was that art piece of it, where you can know it on the board but if you can't do it on the field, guys have to look back and see you being confident. I think that was the opportunity today to really show that you're a leader of the offense."

That last point, leadership, was the No. 1 thing coach Brian Kelly was looking for from his four signal-callers Saturday.

"It's like anything else: If you're confident and you walk up there and you know what you want to do and you're making the check, you're commanding your presence, that obviously goes a long way to the unit," Kelly said. "That was the thing that we wanted to see today: Who commands that respect. Who goes up there and, as I told them, even if you're wrong, go up there with a certainty that you know what you're doing."

The quarterbacks were live Saturday, and Kelly said they will be during this weekend's Blue-Gold spring game. Such situations create a better barometer for progress.

In the case of Tommy Rees, it sometimes means breaking free, as the junior has looked to add an element to his game that has been lacking through 16 starts the past two seasons.

"It's something that I definitely focused on developing, having designed runs," said Rees, who broke off an 8-yard run Saturday. "It's different when you're live -- you've got to figure out how to get down, have your pads down, not take hits. It's something that I definitely need to improve on, but it's something that's been a big focus for me. [I'm] trying to get better at that, and it's something that really can help this offense."

Hendrix added that having the extra sense of urgency helps force all of the quarterbacks out of their comfort zones.

"For a quarterback, when you know it's not live, it's sort of a different mindset," Hendrix said. "You can do your best, but it's really never the same thing. When you put on the blue jersey instead of the red, your clock ticks a little bit faster, maybe you feel a little more jumpy. But at the end of the day I'd say that the best barometer is to go live."