The anticipation continues to grow among those in the Notre Dame program and the Irish faithful anxiously waiting for Saturday to arrive.
One player a lot of eyes will be monitoring is first-year starting quarterback Brandon Wimbush.
It’s been over two years since the 6-foot-2, 228-pounder started a football game. His last came in December 2014 as he led his Jersey City (N.J.) St. Peter’s Prep team to a New Jersey Non-Public Group Four state championship.
Wimbush displayed his ability as a freshman serving as the backup against UMass rushing for 92 yards on four carries against the Minutemen including a 58-yard score. That has played a role in the expectations for the first-year starter.
So, it’s natural to assume Wimbush will have some jitters given the time between his two starts and his limited action in an Irish uniform.
But the redshirt sophomore has been complemented this week for his calm demeanor and head coach Brian Kelly continued it Thursday evening during his post-practice press conference.
“I think it starts with everything he does is extremely intentional,” Kelly explained. “There’s no wasted movement. There’s no fluff about him. What he says, he means. What he does is intentional. If he goes up and shakes your hand; he means it. If he’s going to sit down and watch film, he’s intentional about that. That’s a joy as a coach, a teacher to spend time with someone that is that passionate about what he does.”
Kelly also noted Wimbush’s progress in being the guy at quarterback and leading the offense.
“As it relates to our guys, I think if there are any flaws there sometimes you have to be the bad guy and bring bad news once in a while,” Kelly said. “He’s gotten much more comfortable directing the troops and telling them where to go and where to be and holding them accountable. I think that’s where the growth has occurred with Brandon.”
Confidence in Wimbush and his abilities is high amongst his teammates and coaches. Kelly knows everything won’t go smoothly at all times and wants to ensure Wimbush is aware that is not the expectation.
“Look, you’re not going to be perfect,” Kelly said of what his final message to Wimbush will be. “You’re going to make some mistakes, but move on from them. He’s going to learn from them, but understand perfection is not what we’re after. We’re out for excellence. With that comes some mistakes. From me, play fast, play aggressive and trust your coaching and trust your teaching and you’ll be fine.”
OTHER NOTES FROM KELLY
Kelly touched on sophomore wide receiver Kevin Stepherson’s status for Saturday, but again did not confirm or deny whether the sophomore is suspended.
“Yes,” Kelly said when asked if Stepherson will dress Saturday. “I’ve spent a lot of time talking about our players relative to what my expectations are. They have to meet expectations. Everybody is under the same guidelines. He’s working at it and he’s getting better.”
Kelly on appeal of NCAA's denial of immediate eligibility of safety Alohi Gilman: “We have filed an appeal of Alohi’s denial. We feel like it warranted an appeal and we’ve filed the appropriate paperwork. They gave us a sense of how they put the committee together and it doesn’t seem or appear something that will take a long time.”
Kelly on freshman kicker Jonathan Doerer: “We’re not going to start Jonathan [Doerer]. We’re going to start [Justin] Yoon [at kickoff]. He’s a little tired. He hit the wall a little bit. He’s just tired right now. He will eventually take that duty over. He’s got a big leg, but he’s a little tired. We’re going to hold off the grand opening of Jonathan maybe until a week or two from today. Justin is hitting the ball very well and we’ll be working Jonathan in.”
Kelly on others hitting that freshman wall: ““I think they’ll all hit the wall at some time. We cant rely on a freshman to have such a substantial role that we’re not prepared that there’s going to be a time where we have to help them out. It’s foolish to think that their volume is going to be able to sustain a heavy, heavy work load. We’re prepared for that.”
Notes on other freshmen: Kelly stated that safety Jordan Genmark Heath will not redshirt this season. He will play special teams and serve as the team’s fifth safety. Freshman rover Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah will redshirt however.