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Notre Dame Football

Kelly explains thought process at QB, updates roster health

October 7, 2021
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It's been five years since Notre Dame had a two-game regular-season losing streak.

That's a bit of the backdrop this weekend as the No. 14 Fighting Irish (4-1) visit Virginia Tech (3-1) on the heels of last Saturday's 24-13 home loss to upstart Cincinnati.

Atop that, Notre Dame remains a bit unsettled at the quarterback position – having played all three of its healthy quarterbacks through the season's first five weeks and relieved starter Jack Coan at the half last week with second-year player Drew Pyne.

Irish coach Brian Kelly has maintained all week that the players and staff know who will open up in control of the offense, though Kelly again declined to publicly reveal his quarterback Thursday.

“At this point, we'll let it roll out when we get out on the field and kind of go from there,” Kelly said. “The guys know. We've been practicing all week. I don't think it's going to be a big surprise. Virginia Tech's seen all three of these guys play."

All three of those guys are Coan, Pyne and true freshman Tyler Buchner, who has been deployed in a special package for the Irish this season when healthy.

Kelly hinted strongly that experience away from home is a key factor in the Irish decision at quarterback. Coan opened this season as Notre Dame's starter at Florida State and also started the Irish's win against Wisconsin Sept. 25 at Soldier Field.

Prior to his arrival at Notre Dame in January, Coan had amassed 26 career appearances at Wisconsin; 18 of those contests were starts for Coan, who led the Badgers to a Rose Bowl.

“I think going on the road in the environment we're in was a factor,” Kelly said. “Mobility is a bit of a factor. It needed to be evaluated. Certainly, grading out and I think from our overall perspective of the guys, who gives the best chance for us to win.

“This is still about winning football games. When we added all those up, that's how we came up with the decision.”

Coan has thrown for 1,100 yards, nine touchdowns and three picks; Pyne has completed 50% of his passes and also tossed a pair of touchdowns while he also has not committed any turnovers.

Buchner has emerged as a true dual-threat quarterback who, despite his limited work, tallied the second-most rushing yards on the team through three games.

“What I was saying more than anything else was it was important to really rally behind one quarterback, but it doesn't take the opportunity for us to be multiple if we feel Tyler Buchner can add to what we're doing as a part of our offense,” Kelly said.

"I don't want to call him a 'Wildcat' because he's not, and he can do much more. Offenses have used that as part of their established offensive structure. We needed an established offensive structure, but if we feel like we need to add to it to be better at moving the football, I wouldn't say Tyler Buchner's out of the options of playing in any game this year.”

M.A.S.H. UNIT

Kelly confirmed that graduate-senior defensive tackle Kurt Hinish had been cleared to return against the Hokies; ditto for redshirt-freshman offensive tackle Tosh Baker.

Michael Carmody has practiced this week and could be the Irish's starting left tackle on Saturday.

Joe Wilkins Jr. tore his MCL, per Kelly, and has been lost for the season.

Michael Mayer is expected to play, Kelly said, and Kevin Bauman, out since preseason with a fractured bone in his foot, “is making really good progress. He's out of the boot. He's walking. His progress is bone growth. He's been on the bone stem. He's done everything. We're going to be in that timeline (six weeks). We're approaching a pretty critical phase right now in terms of we start to do some more work as long as we don't have any stress reactions. We feel like we're going to be right on target for Kevin. It's a positive thing.”

 
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