SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Notre Dame hasn't been derailed since losing its starting quarterback and running back, and coach Brian Kelly is still thinking national title.
Sophomore quarterback DeShone Kizer will make his first start for the eighth-ranked Fighting Irish against No. 14 Georgia Tech on Saturday, coach Brian Kelly said Sunday.
''We're not going to make any excuses for where we are,'' Kelly said. ''There's no reason we can't win with DeShone Kizer. There's no reason we can't win with C.J. Prosise in for Tarean Folston. Anybody that we lose, we believe we've got guys that can step up.''
When spring football practice ended, the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Kizer, who didn't play as a freshman, was expected to be the third-string quarterback. Prosise was expected to be the No. 3 running back. But with Everett Golson and Greg Bryant no longer at Notre Dame, and Malik Zaire and Folston out with season-ending injuries, Kizer and Prosise will be the starting backfield Saturday.
Prosise has already shown he's ready, rushing for 253 yards on 37 carries, an average of 6.8 yards per run. He started Saturday at Virginia after Folston tore an ACL in the opener against Texas.
Kizer took over after Zaire fractured his right ankle in the third quarter against Virginia, leading the Irish to victory when he threw a 39-yard TD pass to Will Fuller with 12 seconds left. Kelly told reporters after the game he believes the Irish can still vie for a national title.
''Those are difficult injuries. There's no question. But we've got a lot of really good players around them,'' he said. ''DeShone doesn't have to win it himself.''
Kelly said Kizer is ''pretty deep'' into the playbook and showed good composure and pocket presence. Notre Dame will slim the playbook for Kizer, but Kelly's not concerned about the quarterback's readiness.
''He understands the things that he needs to run our offense,'' he said.
Kizer, who is from Toledo, Ohio, thinks he's up to the task.
''I've been ready for a while now,'' he said. ''I honestly believe, I have all the confidence in the world in my ability to be the quarterback for Notre Dame. Now it's my time to go.''
Kelly has been in worse situations. At Cincinnati in 2008, Kelly coached the Bearcats to their first Big East title despite being forced to use five quarterbacks. He likes to talk about the next man in, and Kizer said he buys into that mentality.
''It started way back in June, I was preparing as if I was going to be the guy,'' he said. ''I tried to compete my butt off against Malik all camp and expecting for my time to come throughout the season. Now, it's here. Now, I've got to look these guys, some of these seniors, in the eye and let them know, I'm the guy.''
Kelly said each of the Irish quarterbacks has a list of their top 10 pass and runs plays. He said Kizer's package is geared more toward the pass, but he can run as well.
''He's an athletic kid. He's big. He's certainly capable of hurting you if you do not defend him. I think it will be dependent on how you decide to defend us,'' Kelly said.
Kelly said he wants to work with Kizer on mechanics and build his confidence by highlighting his strengths. But Kelly said Kizer has already shown confidence.
''He believes he can go in there and win,'' Kelly said. ''You love that about a kid that can go in there and get the job done.''
Notes: Kelly said Zaire had surgery on his ankle Sunday and he's hoping he will be ready for spring football practice. ... Kelly said the only other injury of note is starting tight end Durham Smythe is questionable with an ankle injury.
AP college football website: collegefootball.ap.org