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Big decision coming up

Information that will help answer one of Notre Dame's biggest offseason questions is in.

Irish coach Brian Kelly said Friday that the NFL Advisory Committee's evaluations of receiver Michael Floyd and tight end Kyle Rudolph has been received.

Kelly said the juniors will look at the evaluations when they return to South Bend after Notre Dame plays Miami in the Sun Bowl on Friday in El Paso, Texas.

"There are so many different factors that have to go into making that decision - graduation, playing for Notre Dame, wanting to be here, as well as you go to college to get a really good job too," Kelly said during Thursday's head coaches news conference. "All of those factors are obviously in play right now. All I can tell you is as the head football coach, I'd love to have them both back, but we'll be able to probably get clearer information relative to what their status is in the next week or so."

As for Friday's game, which kicks off at 2 p.m., Kelly said slot receiver Theo Riddick, who was slowed by a foot injury for the five games of the season, and running back Robert Hughes, who ran for 129 yards and two touchdowns in the last three games, will have expanded roles against Miami.

"(Riddick) hasn't been part of our game plan for over two months. He'll be an integral part of what we do," Kelly said. "I think you'll see an expanded role from Robert Hughes and he's earned that by his play."

Kelly also said that freshman quarterback Tommy Rees, who will be making his fourth career start, has used the bowl practices well and is ready for the game.

"The one thing that Tommy has been able to get is real experience leading into this game," Kelly said. "In other words, three weeks of watching film and looking at the mistakes at USC. It's been a great teaching time for him. Where you can slow things down a little bit and really look at all things he's capable of doing and things he can do better. I probably feel as confident in his development as any player, because he's had that real experience in those games.

"Going into this game, Tommy has to be part of the equation. We can't go in there and say things like, 'He just has to distribute,' or 'He's just got to manage the game.' Tommy's got to play well. If we are to win this football game, he's got to use the experience he's had as a starter, and go play the game the way he's capable of playing."

One question remaining for Notre Dame entering the Sun Bowl is who will handle the short-snap duties.

Short snapper Bill Flavin broke his ankle and missed the last three games of the regular season, and center Braxton Cave took over the short-snapping duties.

"We're not sure whether we're going to start Cave or Flavin at that position," Kelly said. "Flavin's healthy, he's been cleared to go. We're probably leaning toward Cave right now. We were concerned because Cave had injured his hand in the USC game, which obviously as you saw we had some troubles with the snap. He's healthy, we think we're probably going to roll in that direction, but Flavin's ready to go if we need him."

The Journal Gazette's Assistant Sports Editor Tony Krausz covers The University of Notre Dame. Krausz, a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and a native of St. Louis, has been assistant sports editor since October 2005. Prior to joining the JG, he worked at two papers in Mississippi covering high school and college athletics.

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