SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said Thursday that he will wait until kickoff of Saturday's game at North Carolina to name his starting quarterback.
Junior Brandon Wimbush, who has led the 21st-ranked Irish to a 4-1 start, is still recovering from the right foot strain that has been bothering him since Notre Dame's 52-17 victory over Miami (Ohio) last Saturday.
Limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday, Wimbush has been sharing reps on the No. 1 offensive unit with sophomore Ian Book as the Irish prepare to play the Tar Heels (1-4).
"(Wimbush) practiced (Thursday) and did some good things," Kelly said during his final meeting with reporters before Notre Dame departs for North Carolina. "We'll go day to day and make a decision on game day."
Wimbush has rushed for 402 yards and eight touchdowns while completing 52.3 percent of his passes for 782 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions.
Wimbush was given a protective walking boot and crutches after the strain was revealed following an MRI and X-rays. He used both in going to class Monday. Wimbush was limited to light throwing and some off-the-field exercises Tuesday while Book got all the work with the No. 1 offensive unit. He returned to the practice field Wednesday.
Kelly said he expects to have Wimbush in uniform, and that he would back up Book if he decided to keep Wimbush on the sideline.
"If (Wimbush) doesn't start, he'll be able to do something," said Kelly, who has been pleased with Book's work this week. "He's in a good place. We've got two days. He will get some more rehab."
Kelly is not concerned about starting Book.
"Ian is very accurate with the football, has a good grasp of the offense and he elevates the play of the guys around him," Kelly said.
Book has played in Notre Dame's last four games, including the entire fourth quarter of last week's win. Book, a sophomore, has gained 40 yards on five rushes and completed 3 of 8 passes for 51 yards.
The team might lean more on running back Josh Adams
Adams was asked what he's working on for Saturday's game.
The answer from the big back would make his coaches proud.
"I need to do a better job of playing without the ball, pass protect and run routes full speed," Adams said. "The little things you can always do better at."
So far, Adams is doing a lot right for the Fighting Irish, averaging 131.6 yards through five games to go with four touchdowns. The 6-2, 225-pound junior is determined to finish every run and get in the end zone, where the Irish are a perfect 22 for 22 in the red zone, one of 12 FBS teams to remain unblemished in that category.
"You don't want to go all the way down there and do that much work to just stop short," he said. "The running back's job is to finish the run and put points on the board."
Adams started last week's game with a 73-yard touchdown run against Miami (Ohio), giving the Irish a lead they never relinquished. He finished the first half, and game, with 159 yards on eight carries along with two TDs.
Adams is the nation's fourth-leading running back with 658 yards on 73 carries — the fewest of any player in the top 10.
After the game, coach Kelly said this of his star back: "Josh has got to start getting national recognition for the kind of season he's having. He is a load. He's a big, physical runner who gets in the open and then runs away from people. This is a special back who's having a special year."
Kelly's commitment to change the focus of the offense toward a more physical approach for running the ball has paid off. Against Boston College, both Adams and quarterback Wimbush rushed for over 200 yards, the first time two Notre Dame players have done so in the same game.
Adams has taken advantage of this new physical approach, and while he's only averaging 14.6 carries per game so far his usual load will probably be around 18 or 19 carries as he and Wimbush spearhead the rushing attack. Adams already has three games this season of at least 100 yards.
Adams said he's not worried who calls the plays on Saturday against the Tar Heels behind the Irish offensive line.
"(As an offense), I think we know we can do more. I think we have guys that want to do more," he said.