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Notre Dame Football

Irish splitting QB reps as Cincinnati showdown looms; more notes

September 30, 2021
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Brian Kelly was non-committal Thursday on his quarterback situation heading into Notre Dame's showdown at home Saturday against Cincinnati in a battle of unbeaten, consensus top-10 teams.

The Fighting Irish (4-0), coming off an exhilarating 41-13 win against Wisconsin, had sophomore Drew Pyne get his most meaningful action to date in the second half of that contest, when Pyne relieved the injured Jack Coan.

Kelly earlier described Coan's injury as “a soft-tissue” issue, and Coan was limping after he absorbed five of Wisconsin's six sacks in that game.

Kelly revealed that Coan, who's started all four games, and Pyne, the former Under Armour All-American, have largely split reps this week in preparation for the Bearcats, who have won 20 of their last 21 regular-season games.

“You know in our two-minute drill (Wednesday), we had Coan in there and I thought he did a pretty good job,” Kelly said. “He's ahead of where I thought he would be on Wednesday. Obviously, he's got today and tomorrow. I think Drew and Jack have kind of split first-team reps and we've continued to work Tyler's package that he's traditionally had in week's past.”

Tyler is Tyler Buchner, the freshman from California on the Notre Dame campus since January. Buchner helped spur Notre Dame's surprising come-from-behind win against Sept. 11 and had been inserted against Purdue Sept. 18 before he suffered what Kelly termed a mild hamstring injury.

Buchner did not play and, though dressed, was not available against Wisconsin.

Kelly expressed optimism that Buchner would be available this weekend.

“Buchner is back to where he was going into where he got a really good sense of the game against Toledo, and obviously Purdue,” Kelly said of the 6-foot-1, 215-pound dual-threat. “I think we're back to that level and hope to increase that as we go into next week. We want to make sure physically he's feeling great, and I think he's back to that level. We'll start to build in more inventory next week with what we're doing with him.”

Buchner threw for a score and added 68 rushing yards in the win against Toledo; he attempted one pass and ran for 24 yards in limited action against the Boilermakers.

But Kelly said that the Notre Dame offense does not drastically change with either Coan or Pyne at its controls.

"I would probably say just a little bit more escapability,” Kelly said of Pyne compared to Coan. “I think more than anything else, he just has an ability to find people on the move a little bit more than maybe Jack. Jack's going to be in much more of a progression read.

"They're much more similar than dissimilar. Jack's probably a little bit more experienced relative to seeing things; third-down pressures and things like that. There's kind of a give-take there in terms of what each guy brings to the lineup.”

CARMODY QUESTIONABLE, HINISH OUT

Second-year left tackle Michael Carmody, thrust into a starting role after Blake Fisher endured a right-knee injury in the opening game at Florida State, has been hobbled by a high-ankle sprain.

Carmody dressed against Wisconsin and participated in some pre-game warmups, but he missed his second-straight game.

Kelly declared the 6-foot-5.5-inch, 290-pound Carmody near a return.

“Carmody has been getting a lot of work at left tackle,” Kelly said. “He, too, is improving each week. “I think we're in the right position for him to be able to play Saturday.”

Not so for super-senior defensive tackle Kurt Hinish, whom Kelly previously said was in concussion protocol.

"Kurt went and saw a specialist,” Kelly shared. “He was cleared from having any kind of head injury. It was something different, so he's excited, but he won't play this weekend.

“We expect to have him back next week."

The Irish face their second road game of the season next week when they travel to Virginia Tech.

FISHER NOT A FACTOR RIGHT NOW

Though after Fisher was injured against Florida State Kelly had expressed optimism the former five-star prospect could return in perhaps eight weeks, Kelly on Thursday said the focus had shifted simply to ensure Fisher remained on a steady rehabilitation schedule.

“That injury is generally something that takes you through most of the season, if not the entire season,” Kelly said. “We're not in a position where we're thinking about him each week.

“It's kind of (saying to Fisher), 'Go through your process and make sure you're not missing any rehab,' and if Rob Hunt comes to me in Week 10 and says, 'Hey, we're well ahead of schedule,' then we'll get our hopes up then.”

 
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