ORLANDO, Fla. - Brian Kelly turned up the heat during Christmas week.
It’s about to get even hotter.
When the Irish hit McCracken Field at the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium complex Christmas Day Sunday - the equivalent of a Tuesday during the regular season - the Notre Dame players will be dealing with heat and humidity that hasn’t been around northern Indiana for several months.
“The only thing we’re working through is turning up the heat a little bit in the Loftus and getting acclimated a little bit,” said Kelly last week as the Irish tried to simulate Central Florida weather this time of year.
Kelly admitted at the time that some players suffered from cramping issues as the temperature was cranked up inside the Loftus Sports Center on Meyo Field. Those issues could be even more acute in Orlando, where temperatures are expected to be in the low 80s early in the week before cooling five-to-10 degrees by game-day on Thursday.
While the majority of the Florida State players hail from the Sunshine State and are accustomed to the warmer climate, several Irish players are not oblivious to such conditions, including Florida natives Aaron Lynch, Louis Nix III, Zeke Motta and Lo Wood.
The Irish also have 12 players from California, three from Hawaii, four from Texas and numerous others from southern states.
Of course, Kelly is no stranger to bringing a northern team down south for a bowl game. He is 3-1 in bowl games (he did not participate in Cincinnati’s Sugar Bowl trip when he took the Notre Dame job), and has beaten a southern team (Southern Mississippi) in Birmingham, Ala. (the Papajohns.com Bowl).
For Kelly, it’s more about using the time well in preparation for a bowl game.
“Time allows you to really look at what you’re doing and spend more time on the teaching elements that sometimes get away from you during the week because you’re so busy game-planning and preparing,” said Kelly when asked early last week about his success in the post-season.
“All I know is that our practice schedule reflects a little bit more teaching, more individual, a little bit more focus on the fundamentals and maybe that’s translated itself.”
Upon arrival: Kelly, his coaching staff and the Notre Dame traveling party arrived in Orlando Friday, leaving 36-degree South Bend for 84-degree Orlando. Kelly, whose staff conducted a 2:30 p.m. meeting Saturday, talked about the approach he would take during Champs Sports Bowl game week.
“The first couple of days, we will work them really hard, but we will let them have some fun too,” said Kelly to the (Chicago) Tribune Newspapers. “Then we’ll start to pare back as we get closer to game time.”
Kelly said that his team would be focused on the task at hand Thursday night.
“They all understand how important a ninth win is,” Kelly said. “I’m not as concerned about that as I am timing and tackling and all those things (after) a long layoff.”
(Editor’s note: Look for a Christmas night report from the Irish practice field.)