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  • Notre Dame's Deon McIntosh, right, runs for a touchdown while North Carolina's K.J. Sails (9) and Myles Wolfolk (11) chase during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017. Notre Dame won 33-10. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Monday, October 09, 2017 1:00 am

Freshman steps up in latest Irish win

CHRIS GOFF | The Journal Gazette

Notre Dame's three-headed monster of talented running backs appears to be adding a fourth face.

Deon McIntosh, a freshman from Pompano Beach, Florida, announced his presence in Saturday night's 33-10 win at North Carolina with 12 carries for 124 yards and two touchdowns, earning praise from coach Brian Kelly.

“I think he showed why he can be counted on as another very good back for us,” Kelly said. “He got the game ball. He ran physical. He ran with vision. He ran with toughness.”

McIntosh began the season as Notre Dame's fourth-string option behind starter Josh Adams, No. 2 back Dexter Williams and third-stringer Tony Jones Jr. Injuries to the three ahead of him opened the door for McIntosh to begin to get carries, and he has taken full advantage.

“Very impressive,” Kelly said. “He's feeling pretty good about himself.”

Listed at 5-foot-10 and 193 pounds, McIntosh earned his first carry Sept. 16 at Boston College. The 16th-ranked Irish (5-1) turned to him for 12 carries Sept. 23 at Michigan State, which McIntosh turned into 35 yards and a score. On Sept. 30, McIntosh contributed to a win over Miami (Ohio) with 12 rushes for 47 yards and a TD.

What it means is he might be keeping his uniform.

“Deon's wanted to change his number for quite some time,” Kelly said. “He's felt that No. 38 is not befitting of a running back, so I said, 'Well, people recognize you as 38, and you're a really good running back,' so he has backed off on that request now that he has established himself as a pretty good running back.”

Another key component to Notre Dame's running game is Brandon Wimbush, whose eight touchdown runs are two shy of the school's single-season record for a quarterback. Kelly said Wimbush, held out of the North Carolina game with a foot strain, endured an “off and on” week that led to Ian Book getting the start.

“Wednesday, (Wimbush) didn't look particularly good,” Kelly said. “Thursday, he looked a little better. Friday, he had the urge that he wanted to play, so it went back and forth. Then (Saturday) he just didn't have it in him. He just didn't feel great. He didn't have any bounce.

“(Friday) he looked good in our walk-through preparation and had a lot of energy. I hadn't really made a decision until when I saw him (Saturday) he had no bounce in his step.”

With this being Notre Dame's bye week, Wimbush can get more rest, if needed, but Kelly expects his quarterback to take first-team repetitions when practice resumes Wednesday.

“Brandon's our starter,” Kelly said.

In other injury news, starting right guard Alex Bars sprained an ankle Saturday. Kelly said it was diagnosed as “low grade.”

cgoff@jg.net