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Notre Dame Football

Kelly mum but knows starting QB; injury notes on Mayer, Hinish, more

October 4, 2021

Even in victory, Brian Kelly had hoped to avoid a quarterback controversy for his Notre Dame team.

Now, on the heels of Saturday's 24-13 loss to Cincinnati and the Fighting Irish's first regular-season loss since Oct. 26, 2019, Kelly is facing greater scrutiny surrounding the Notre Dame quarterback position.

Jack Coan started each of the Irish's first five games, but Coan exited the Wisconsin win Sept. 25, with an injury and was replaced at halftime of last weekend's loss to the Bearcats by Drew Pyne.

Freshman Tyler Buchner also has played in three of the Irish's past four games; he missed the Wisconsin game with a hamstring injury.

No. 14 Notre Dame (4-1) visits Virginia Tech (3-1), which is unranked but owns an upset-win against then-No. 10 North Carolina to open the 2021 season, Saturday (7:30 p.m., ACC Network).

“We're going to have one guy and we're going to let him know the reps are for him to be the starter and focus on one guy,” Kelly said. “We just haven't gotten the chance to talk with them today individually yet.

"We know who exactly who it is."

What factors led Kelly, offensive coordinator Tommy Rees and the remainder of the Irish staff to knowing “exactly who it is”?

“Who graded out well, who played well,” Kelly said. “Nobody was perfect, as we know, at the quarterback position. There were some mistakes made by all three. But I think at the end of the day, who gives you the best chance to win. This is still about winning football games.

“We've got a team that we feel can win the rest of their games and we want to be able to put the quarterback out there that we believe gives us the best chance to do that.”

Pro Football Focus showed that Pyne, the second-year quarterback from New Canaan, Connecticut, had been the top-rated Notre Dame player against Cincinnati at any position. PFF graded Pyne at 81.

Coan, a game-time decision last Saturday against the Bearcats, was able to play and quickly led Notre Dame down the field on the game's first possession. But on second-and-goal from the 6, Coan's back-foot pass near the goal line was intercepted.

Buchner also was picked off in the game.

On the season, Coan has completed 61% of his passes for 1,100 yards, nine touchdowns and three interceptions. Pyne has gone 15-for-30 for 224 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers. Buchner's 3-for-6 with a touchdown, and a pick; he also is the Irish's second-leading rusher, despite registering carries in just three games, with seven attempts for 100 yards.

”I think I probably won't announce it,” Kelly said of the Irish starter. “I think I'll probably just talk to the kids. We'll rep it. You guys will do fine investigative work and probably figure it out.

“I think I'm more interested in what we do, more than I'm trying to hide something from Virginia Tech. “But they've seen all three play. They're pretty smart. They can figure it out. This is not about trying to gain a competitive advantage. This is about talking to our kids today and getting them moving and start the process that way.”


Kelly said that sophomore tight end Michael Mayer has an abductor strain that requires day-to-day management, but Kelly expects Mayer to play against the Hokies.
Mayer, speaking to reporters after the Cincy loss, also expects to play.

Kurt Hinish could return this week and Kelly said the coaching staff believes that Hinish will return, but that the decision ultimately rests with the Notre Dame medical staff.

Wideout Joe Wilkins Jr. is receiving an MRI today on his leg injury and Kelly is awaiting those results to learn if Wilkins' setback is going to be long-term.

Tosh Baker is going through concussion protocol and it isn't clear if he's going to be available against the Hokies.

Fellow offensive tackle Michael Carmody continues to battle an injury injury and remains day-to-day.

Joe Alt is the Notre Dame answer at left tackle if Baker nor Carmody can play.

“I wish he would become it tomorrow,” Kelly said of Alt's considerable upside along the offensive front. “I think his demeanor, if I had to point to one thing. Now, he has size, right? He has skill-set. He looks like a tackle, acts like a tackle. I just love the way he does his job. He's unflappable. He goes out there. We play him at tight end, change the jersey, put another number on him, doesn't effect him, he goes in and does his job.

“Is he perfect? Absolutely not, but having said that, there's a physicality to him that he brings that we really like that we feel like we need at that position. And here we go. We've got another guy at left tackle, and he's healthy.”


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