Notre Dame freshmen running backs Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston each received a small amount of playing time when the No. 21 Irish had their season-opening win well in hand against Temple.
But neither played in last weekend's 41-30 loss at Michigan.
Coach Brian Kelly told reporters today that Bryant and Folston were kept out of the game against the Wolverines because of the circumstances of the game, and that the freshmen are part of the offensive plan as Notre Dame (1-1) gets ready to play at Purdue (1-1) on Saturday.
"We like them both," Kelly said. "The game really will dictate their playing time. It's a different kind of game against Michigan. It was protections. It was split out as a receiver. It was a little bit of a different game.
"They're going to be factors in the game plan. There are plays scripted for them this week. I couldn't tell you when or where. How the game unfolds will really tell. They're in the rotation."
Bryant and Folston are competing in a deep rotation with juniors George Atkinson III, Amir Carlisle and Cam McDaniel. But Kelly said he will not hesitate to play the freshmen.
"The game itself and the way the game is played will determine how many running backs you can get in the game," Kelly said. "I'm not just going to shuffle four or five guys in there if we're in a game where I want to do a specific thing offensively. It really depends on how the game unfolds. I have confidence in all those guys. If you've got Folston in, then Carlisle and Atkinson are not in. We've got to balance it off and decide how we're playing the game offensively.
"It's not easy. I have no problem playing my freshmen running backs. We just have to find the right opportunities and when they need to be in the game."
One running back that appears to be out of the backfield mix is Will Mahone, who missed the season opener against Temple with a high ankle sprain. He was available against Michigan, but he didn't play against the Wolverines.
Kelly said Mahone is currently working more at the receiver-slot position then the hybrid slot-running back position.
"He's back in trying to get reps," Kelly said. "I told him (Thursday), it's competitive. You can't make a mistake in practice. If you don't know what to do on one play, you're going to find yourself behind, because there's just so much depth out there. And we like them all. I don't know how to play them all right now."