Kelly: Notre Dame's Wimbush making progress, cleared to run at Wednesday's practice

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — A day after Ian Book took practice reps with Notre Dame’s first-team offense, starting quarterback Brandon Wimbush’s activity level was expected to ramp up at Wednesday’s Irish football practice.

But it’s still too early to call which one of them will actually be the starter when 21st-ranked ND (4-1) visits North Carolina (1-4) on Saturday at Kenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Wimbush, a junior, suffered a grade one strain to his right foot in last Saturday’s 52-17 victory over Miami (Ohio). It’s the mildest form of a muscle/tendon strain. Book, a sophomore who redshirted last season, has thrown eight career passes and run the ball four times in a relief role this season.

“He was fully engaged in all of our game plan, meetings,” Kelly said Wednesday during an ACC football teleconference when asked about Wimbush’s participation level at Tuesday’s practice.

“He was out on the field. We did some light throwing, some core exercises. We had him on the bike. And then he was part of the signaling of all the plays.

“He's mentally ready to go. He'll move around today, and I think we've got plenty of time to get him ready. Yeah, it was a good day, and we expect more progress today.”

Wimbush has completed 69 of his 113 pass attempts for 782 yards and six TDs with two interceptions. He is ND's second-leading rusher with 402 yards on 68 carries and eight touchdowns. He is 71 yards away from moving into the top five on ND’s all-time, single-season rushing list for quarterbacks.

If Wimbush is able to play but is not at 100 percent, the question then becomes whether giving Book his first career start and resting Wimbush against the nation’s No. 112 team in total defense make sense — or at least holding him out until/unless he’s needed.

The Irish have a bye week following the North Carolina game, then host 14th-ranked USC (4-1) on Oct. 21.

Wimbush’s right foot has been in a protective boot since the injury was diagnosed on Sunday. Kelly said that it’s supposed to come off Wednesday night.

Some members of the media crossed paths with Wimbush after Tuesday’s Kelly press conference, just after noon. And they saw him with the boot and still using crutches.

“He really doesn't need the crutches,” Kelly said. “I think he was using them, because of the boot is a little awkward. I don't know if you know anything about the boot, but it rolls, and the crutches are really just that, a crutch for him.

“He doesn't need it because of the pain or anything like that. He felt awkward in the boot. We let him use it today to go to class, because he's walking around campus, and we don't want any stress on the foot.

“Our orthopedic surgeon met with him last night, showed him again the MRI — grade one — and he's cleared to run for today.”

Notre Dame’s Brandon Wimbush (7) throws the ball during ND's 52-17 victory over Miami (Ohio), Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium. (Tribune Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA)