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Brian Kelly: Brandon Wimbush will be leader for Irish, if he stays

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Wimbush: Transferring from ND to 'fulfill my dreams' (1:40)

Notre Dame QB Brandon Wimbush understands the significance of his transfer decision and will make his choice of new school after this year's bowl games. (1:40)

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Brandon Wimbush said he won't entertain any serious transfer options until after Notre Dame's season ends, but coach Brian Kelly said Thursday that he's encouraged his backup quarterback to keep his options open.

Kelly said he's had multiple "preliminary" conversations with Wimbush, who was benched in favor of Ian Book after Notre Dame's third game of the season, and told Wimbush to enter his name into the transfer portal.

Kelly, however, said no decisions have been made and Wimbush would be welcomed back with the Irish next season.

"If he decides to stay, he'll be a leader on this team, most likely a captain, and we'll make sure he's involved in our offense," Kelly said.

Wimbush said he does not want to go through "another recruiting process," but the coaching staff at Notre Dame has helped him narrow a list of potential transfer options. He'll explore those in depth once the Irish wrap up their season, either Saturday against Clemson in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl or after the CFP National Championship Game.

"I want to play football at the highest level, in the NFL, so whatever gives me the best opportunity to do that, I'll go that route," Wimbush said.

Wimbush, who started 16 games for Notre Dame over three seasons, was benched after a slow start to the 2018 season. He's appeared in six games with five total touchdowns and six interceptions.

News of Wimbush's intention to transfer trickled out last week, but the QB said that he hasn't made a decision and he hadn't told anyone otherwise. He said his teammates have been supportive and have joked with him about the rumors.

Kelly said Wimbush is "torn" about his decision, but he understands why the quarterback would want a fresh start and a chance to be on the field routinely in 2019.

Both Clemson and Notre Dame benched incumbent starters coming off 10-win campaigns this season (as well as Alabama, another playoff team), and Kelly lauded Wimbush's handling of the situation. At Clemson, former starter Kelly Bryant decided to leave the team midyear to transfer, while Wimbush has remained heavily involved.

"I don't want to be a distraction," Wimbush said, "but I'm excited for what's to come and what lies ahead. I've got a year of eligibility left, and that's it."