Notre Dame touched down in balmy southern Florida accompanied by a couple hundred onlookers and a welcome blast from water cannons at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport Wednesday afternoon. Keeping his players well hydrated will be an immediate focus for head coach Brian Kelly this week.
Orange Bowl officials greet Brian Kelly as he deplanes in Ft. Lauderdale Wednesday afternoon.
The Irish begin their final game-plan polishing practices for the BCS Championship game Thursday in temperatures expected to be in the low 80s — 60-plus degrees warmer than the weather they left behind in South Bend. Kelly said it will be important to get his team used to the heat during the next couple of days.
“We’ll get after it pretty good tomorrow,” he said. “We want to make sure they feel the weather. …They just need to get acclimated. Hydration is key.”
The team started preparing for the warmer weather by adding more fluids last weekend while working in their indoor practice facility back on campus. Kelly said the six-week layoff since winning their season finale on Nov. 24 gave his players plenty of time to improve their conditioning.
The players landed in Miami more overwhelmed by the friendly greeting than the blast of hot air that hit them on the Ft. Lauderdale tarmac. Senior wide receiver Robby Toma, a Hawaii native, said he’s looking forward to working up a sweat.
“I grew up playing in this weather, so I’m excited for that,” he said.
The entire Irish roster was present and accounted for, according to Kelly. There were no last minute injuries to report after a pair of physical practices to finish their preparations at home and no unforeseen surprises with players checking in. That includes sophomore wide receiver DaVaris Daniels, who is expected to be a contributor against Alabama. Daniels missed the last two weeks of the regular season after breaking his collarbone against Boston College.
“He’ll play a role, and we hope it’s a significant role in what we do,” Kelly said.
Beyond adjusting to the weather, Kelly said the next couple of days of practice will be strictly focused on putting the finishing touches on their plan to unseat the defending champion Crimson Tide Monday night. Kelly said he was happy with the amount of work his team has accomplished to date, but knew there was still more to do in the coming days.
“This is a business trip,” he said. “There’s no question we’re here to play the game, but I want our guys relaxed. They’ve done all the work. We’ve got some practice we’ve got to take care of but I want them relaxed and ready to play.”
Notre Dame begins its preparation in Miami Thursday afternoon at 1:15 p.m. and will also practice Friday and Saturday before a walk-through on Sunday leading up to the championship game. Tonight, the Irish plan to begin their acclimation process to the new city by taking in a Miami Heat basketball game.