Notre Dame linebacker and Carroll graduate Drue Tranquill is "questionable" to play against Northwestern on Saturday after suffering an ankle sprain in the Irish's win over Navy, coach Brian Kelly announced Monday.
"I think there's still optimism as it relates to Drue," Kelly said. "In terms of how we would characterize that (Monday), he's not ready to be a full-go practice player, but he'll be out there."
Tranquill, a team captain, was wearing a boot on the Irish sideline Saturday night after suffering the injury, but Kelly said it was off by the time the team got back to the hotel. He was not wearing a boot Monday and a precautionary MRI came back negative. Kelly also mentioned that, as a graduate student, Tranquill's class workload might give him more time to be in the trainer's room than an undergrad would have.
"It's just a matter of time and how he heals," the coach said of the linebacker's status for Saturday. "I would say that we're definitely optimistic that we can get him back."
If Tranquill can't play, Kelly mentioned a trio of players that might fill in at the "Buck" position, a linebacker-defensive end hybrid. One possibility is true freshman Drew White, who subbed in for Tranquill against the Midshipmen and made the first six tackles of his Notre Dame career. Kelly said White had impressed this season on the scout team, then moved up to special teams and was solid there, as well.
"The position (against Navy) was such that there wasn't a lot of other responsibilities other than dive to QB, so it was perfect for (White) to kind of get his feet wet," Kelly said. "He didn't have to worry about curl responsibilities, first back out, wheel routes, things of that nature. It was our first glimpse of him, allowing him to go in there and play football. He did a really good job."
Other possibilities at the position were redshirt junior Asmar Bilal and sophomore Jordan Genmark Heath. Bilal has started six games at Tranquill's old "Rover" position this season, collecting 37 tackles, including three for loss. Genmark Heath saw action on special teams as a true freshman last season and has five tackles this year.