"So it just protects (Rees) more when you have that kind of versatility to your offense."
What finally prompted Kelly to play Hendrix Saturday was Hendrix taking a quantum leap during a week in which the pre-med major had the added challenge of trying to knock out midterm exams.
"I think the main thing was that I was clean in practice," Hendrix said. "I didn’t make a lot of senseless errors. I was just studying my package and applying everything (Air Force) could have possibly done."
His swollen ankle will keep the junior from Laie, Hawaii out of the workouts for the upcoming bye week but did not deter him on Saturday.
Yes, Te’o recorded 10 tackles, 2½ for loss, and a pass break-up all on a bad wheel.
"He had a slight sprain on Wednesday in practice and we kept (him) limited," Kelly revealed. "But even with his limited ability, he was an impact player.
"He's an amazing football player. I mean, he does things each and every week that sometimes defy what the average player would be able to accomplish. You know, he was hobbled (against) an offense that requires the linebacker to be integral in what happens, and he played very, very well."
The vaunted freshman more than bounced back from a suspension against Purdue (Oct. 1) for missing class with the most impacting game of his fledgling career, on Saturday.
Tuitt apologized to his teammates, stayed away from excuses, then went out and recorded five tackles in the Air Force win. And the double-teams he commanded also freed up his teammates to make plays.
"If we are giving out helmet stickers, Stephon Tuitt gets it," Kelly said. "He and (Darius) Fleming were outstanding. Tuitt was as good (Saturday) as Aaron Lynch has been at times. Tuitt showed that kind of play against Air Force."
And the 6-6½, 295-pound defensive end did it playing nose guard, not the position for which he was recruited. So where is his future?
"He's got great versatility," Kelly said. "He can play inside and outside, and he's just a rare combination, where Aaron is more suited on the outside. Tuitt can play both inside and out, just because of his length and his athletic ability."
The 5-10, 230-pound senior from Pontiac, Mich., found inspiration for his final season in Notre Dame’s past.
During ND’s fantasy camp this past summer, Irish legends Jerome Bettis and Nick Eddy were among the former ND standouts to matriculate back to campus to be part of that event.
They each took the opportunity to seek out Jones, after which Kelly saw a seismic shift in the aspiring stand-up comic’s on-field attitude.
"I thought he was a little bit silly (before)," Kelly said. "You can be who you are, and I think that’s good. I don’t want them all to be the same. But you can’t bring that to practice. And that’s what changed this year. I’ve seen a difference in his demeanor (since then)."