Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly discusses the progress of quarterbacks, including Brandon Wimbush, over the summer. Aug. 2, 2018
Laken Litman, [email protected]
SOUTH BEND – Brian Kelly said it is not another DeShone Kiser/Malik Zaire situation. The Notre Dame football coach said if he needs two quarterbacks to beat Michigan, or any other opponent, he will play two.
Kelly reiterated Brandon Wimbush is the starter and Ian Book the backup for the No. 11 Fighting Irish, and that the plan for the Sept. 1 opener against No. 14 Michigan will be built around Wimbush’s strengths. But also …
“They’re both different quarterbacks, and they both can help us win,” Kelly said Thursday night. “And if we feel like we need them both play at certain times, we’ll do it. And if we don’t, we won’t.”
Book came off the bench in the Citrus Bowl and led the Fighting Irish over LSU 21-17, completing 14-of-19 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns. Wimbush was still the No. 1 quarterback, and has remained so.
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Yet memories are fresh of the 4-8 record of two years ago. Wounds are fresh, too, judging from tweets by Kiser and Zaire during the Citrus Bowl that were critical of Kelly switching QBs.
Zaire surprisingly replaced Kiser in 2016 during a 17-10 loss to Stanford.
Kiser was chosen in the second round of the 2017 NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns. As a rookie, he started 15 games and passed for 2,894 yards, 11 touchdowns and a league-leading 22 interceptions for the 0-16 Browns. He has subsequently been traded to Green Bay.
Zaire transferred to Florida, where he was 0-2 as a starter in 2017. He and Kiser resembled each other, Kelly said.
“And then it just didn’t go well, obviously,” the coach said. “This is a different situation. They complement each other very, very well.”
Kelly said it is not a matter of Book “closing the gap” on Wimbush. Book will never be the runner that Wimbush is, and Wimbush will never “spin the ball” the way Book does, Kelly said.
“Let’s say we ran Brandon six times and he needed a blow,” Kelly said. “I mean, he’s not going to be, ‘Oh, you took me out of the game.’ He knows the skill set that Ian has, and that he can go in and help us win.
“So I think it’s less about worrying about it and knowing if we need to put him (Book) in, he knows he’s a guy who can come in and help us win. He (Wimbush) is about winning instead of, ‘You’re taking reps for me.’“
Kelly said he did not go into the Citrus Bowl expecting to play two quarterbacks. The coach said he has two winners, and is prepared to play either one.
“They’re much more about the team winning, and whatever we have to do to win,” Kelly said. “This is not going to be shared reps, and ‘he takes a series, and he takes a series.’ This is if somebody needs to go in and help the team, because it’s a fluid situaiton, I’m just saying there’s not going to be egos involved in it.”
That might have been the case earlier, Kelly said.
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