Brian Kelly, Brandon Wimbush Discuss QB's Future At Notre Dame
Earlier this week, Stadium’s Brett McMurphy first reported that Notre Dame senior quarterback Brandon Wimbush will be a graduate transfer who will be immediately eligible to play elsewhere in 2019.
The move would hardly be a surprise, but both the backup quarterback Wimbush — who graduated from Notre Dame’s prestigious Mendoza School of Business this month with an accounting degree — and Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly would not confirm that is the case during Thursday’s media day in Arlington, Texas prior to Saturday’s (Dec. 29) showdown with Clemson in the College Football Playoff at the Cotton Bowl.
“We've had two discussions, preliminary in nature, about his options. No decision has been made,” Kelly said.
Wimbush has been practicing with the team and said the last thing he wants to be is a distraction on the task at hand.
“There’s a lot that lies ahead for me personally, but I’m preparing for the 29th, and I’m looking forward to that,” he told ESPN’s Marty Smith during a video interview.
When asked what will go into his decision on whether to stay for a fifth season at Notre Dame (he redshirted during his sophomore year in 2016) or play elsewhere in 2019, Wimbush replied: “Sometimes you have to look out for your personal best interest, and I think this is one of those times that is going to impact my life in the long run. I just want to have an opportunity to go fulfill my dreams. My decision that I make will allow me to do so.”
He won’t reveal anything else until Notre Dame’s season is finished, which he hopes will be extended into January.
“After the 7th and we head on to the national championship, God willingly,” Wimbush said of the potential to play on Jan. 7.
Because Wimbush already has established a foremost goal of earning his degree, Kelly said he will support whatever decision is made by him.
“He's earned the right to transfer and play in his senior year for what he's done for Notre Dame,” Kelly said. “He's gotten his degree. He's helped our football team. But if he's decided to stay, he'll be a leader on this football team, most likely a captain. And we'll make sure that he's involved in our offensive structure.
"So he's got some decisions to make. He knows it's a short timeline. But we've put himself in a position where, if he's got to make a quick decision, he's laid the groundwork for it.”
Blueandgold.com has maintained for several months, or since Wimbush was supplanted in the starting lineup by junior Ian Book in the fourth game, that using a graduate transfer elsewhere is his most likely path.
Recent Notre Dame quarterbacks under Kelly who took a similar route were Dayne Crist (Kansas), Andrew Hendrix (Miami (Ohio)), Everett Golson (Florida State) and Malik Zaire (Florida). The reasons in all cases are two-fold: First, the Notre Dame degree is in hand. Two, one doesn’t generally return for a fifth season as a backup quarterback when there is an opportunity to start elsewhere at that specific and desired position.
Notre Dame’s 2019 quarterback scholarship roster will feature three players for now: current starter Book, who has eligibility remaining in 2019 and 2020, freshman Phil Jurkovec, who redshirted this season despite making two game appearances, and incoming freshman Brendon Clark, who will not arrive until June for summer school.
There also is the matter of a numbers crunch.
Including the 21 freshmen who signed with Notre Dame on Dec. 19, the Irish stand at 93 scholarships for 2019, with one or two more possible freshman additions in February. The number has to be pared down to the NCAA limit of 85 by the start of the season.
Wimbush started 12 of the 13 games during a 10-3 campaign in 2017 and set the single season school record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with 14. He rushed for 803 yards, second most in a season by an Irish quarterback, and added 1,870 yards passing with 16 touchdowns.
This year Wimbush started the first three games, earning the game ball in the 24-17 victory versus Michigan in the opener. He was supplanted by Book after a 3-0 start because Notre Dame was averaging only 23.3 points per game and Book was more adept and accurate at spreading the ball around as a passer. Wimbush also started in place of the injured Book in the 42-13 victory versus Florida State on Nov. 10, Senior Day.
Wimbush described his student-athlete experience at Notre Dame as "phenomenal," while Kelly praised the relationship between Book and Wimbush that did not become toxic and had each genuinely support the other.
"It usually means that you have two unique young men that truly transcend normal competitiveness for their position," Kelly said. "They're just unique young men in the sense that they really care about each other and they're selfless. So it's rare. I have been doing it a long time; I have not seen it before."