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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press Brandon Wimbush started three games for Notre Dame before relenting to Ian Book. He was not on hand Wednesday to discuss transfer rumors.

Thursday, December 27, 2018 1:00 am

Cotton Bowl Notebook

Backup MIA amid transfer talk

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

DALLAS – Multiple sources this week have reported that Notre Dame backup quarterback Brandon Wimbush plans to transfer after the season.

Wimbush wasn't available to the media Wednesday, but those Irish players and coaches who did field questions unanimously expressed support for the former starter.

“Him being a grad transfer, it's completely up to him,” offensive coordinator Chip Long said. “That's what I told him, 'I'm behind you 100 percent, whatever you decide to do.'”

“Brandon is a great teammate, great person,” Long added. “He loves being around his teammates, and he loves Notre Dame.”

Wimbush started the first three games of the season and the Irish won them all, but coach Brian Kelly inserted Ian Book into the starting lineup before Week 4 against Wake Forest. Since then, Wimbush has started just one game, a 42-13 win over Florida State while Book was hurt.

The last time the Irish had a quarterback controversy was in 2016, when DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire battled for the starting spot. That team struggled to a 4-8 season and the locker room was acrimonious. Wimbush and Book didn't let that happen this season.

“It was awful,” linebacker Drue Tranquill said of the Kizer-Zaire battle. “It was everything you hoped to stay away from in regards to just team camaraderie and togetherness. It was like there were two different camps.

“This situation has been totally different. ... Ian and Brandon, they're always trying to make each other better, always talking, always dapping each other up.”

Irish turn it up

Notre Dame practiced in full pads for two hours Wednesday and Kelly continues to be pleased with the way the team has handled its training for the Cotton Bowl.

“Their preparation since we started this journey, in terms of the (Playoff), it's not been like any other postseason that I've been part of in Division I,” Kelly said. “They've been great. Their focus has been good. They're here certainly to enjoy the Cotton Bowl, ... but this is a business trip, too.”

The Irish pumped in crowd noise at multiple intervals during their practice to try to better simulate the atmosphere they will face Saturday. The strategy is similar to one they used before they faced Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. The gambit worked then: the Irish weren't phased by the hostile Hokies crowd.

“This is a big stadium and when it's quiet in here it's not realistic,” Kelly said of AT&T Stadium in Arlington. “So we just tried to create some realistic situations ... to get the guys ready for Saturday.”

Secondary concern

Clemson's defensive front has gotten the tiger's share of the credit for holding opposing teams to just 13.7 points per game, second in the nation. If the Tigers' defense has a weakness, the secondary is supposedly it.

Long disagrees.

“I think that's silly,” he said. “Their corners are tough, physical, they do a great job mixing up their looks and they're around the football.

“They're not just cover guys. You know, their size helps and their safeties are really good tacklers.  All of them will play in the NFL one day, no question about that.”

The Tigers give up a paltry 183.8 passing yards per game. Safety Isaiah Simmons leads with 83 tackles and has broken up five passes.

dsinn@jg.net