The 2017 Notre Dame offense has been as dominant as any Notre Dame offense we’ve seen in many years. Powered by one of the nation’s best offensive lines, the Irish are ripping off 300 yards on the ground on almost a weekly basis. Georgia is the only team to hold Notre Dame to less than 33 points all season. Here’s the thing though. This offense can still get better – a lot better. As quarterback Brandon Wimbush continues his development, the Irish offense and its quarterback are inching towards unstoppable status.
Right now Brandon Wimbush is far from a finished product and both he and Brian Kelly will be two of the first people to admit that. Right now Brandon Wimbush is still a bit of a work in progress as a passer and needs to improve his completion percentage to become a complete player. Right now Brandon Wimbush is one of the most dangerous weapons in all of college football who continues to improve week in and week out.
Earlier in the season it was a bit rough to watch the Notre Dame passing attack. Wimbush struggled quite a bit early in the year highlighted by a case of the yips against Miami of Ohio. Supremely talented, Wimbush was putting the fear of God into defenses with his feet and doing the same to Notre Dame fans when he dropped back to pass.
Since then, however, we’ve seen significant progress in Wimbush the passer. While his completion percentage is still lower than you’d ideally like, he is coming off a career high 280 yard passing performance that also featured his fourth 100 yard rushing performance on the season. His latest two rushing touchdowns this past weekend added to his Notre Dame quarterback single season rushing touchdown record that currently stands at 13 with three games to go. Oh yeah, Wimbush also sat out the entire North Carolina game with an injury.
Passing, Wimbush has found the endzone 11 times this season while tossing just two interceptions and none since week three against Boston College.
Wimbush can – and almost certainly will – get better though. A lot better. We’ve been seeing him improve as a passer each week. In that week three contest against Boston College, Wimbush was wildly inaccurate. He completed just 11 of 24 attempts for a measly 94 yards. That same game he topped 200 yards rushing though and found the endzone four times with his legs. It was the perfect juxtaposition of where Wimbush was as a runner and a passer.
Fast forward to last weekend and Wimbush still completed just 50% of his passes but his 15 completions covered 280 yards and those totals should have been much higher had the Irish receivers hauled in a couple deep balls that Wimbush was just a bit late on. Wimbush has, however, been getting closer and closer on those deeps balls each week and sooner or later – probably sooner – he’s going to hit on one of those and the floodgates could open.
Even with some of the limitations of the Notre Dame offense, right now the Irish are racking up ridiculous yardage totals and lighting up the scoreboard week in and week out. Last week the only thing that stopped Notre Dame was Notre Dame itself. The Irish topped 700 yards and nearly set a school record for yards in a game against a pretty solid Wake Forest defense. They are averaging 324 yards on the ground each week. Again, they are doing this with a passing game that can still be described as a work in progress.
As Wimbush improves each week, the Notre Dame offense is inching towards unstoppable status. The passing game has already progressed enough to the point that it has to be respected by opposing defenses which has allowed Josh Adams to reel off a Heisman campaign and the Notre Dame rushing attack to conjure up memories of yesteryear.
It’s not all on Wimbush at this point though. He also needs his receivers to start winning the battle for contested balls. Last week Notre Dame receivers had a chance to haul in some contested passes and just as they have most of the year, they were unable to rise to that challenge. Wimbush isn’t going to suddenly be confused for Tom Brady in the accuracy department but his numbers would look a lot better if the Irish receivers start coming down with some 50/50 balls.
It’s been a problem for a while now for Notre Dame, but the development of Chase Claypool could help in this department. The sophomore is coming off a career high 180 outburst against Wake and has shown the kind of tenacity in the blocking department throughout the season to suggest that he should be able to win more contested battles than he loses.
Even with some moving parts here, Brandon Wimbush has accounted for 24 combined touchdowns this year. Had he not missed the North Carolina game, he’d likely have a great chance to top 1,000 yards rushing and 2,000 yards passing. And he is only getting better.
Wimbush and the Notre Dame offense will have an opportunity to show the world just how good they are and how much they have improved since struggling to move the football against Georgia in week two. Wimbush looked uncomfortable that night back in September, but since then we’ve seen a young man who has gotten more and more comfortable in the pocket. A young quarterback who has gotten quicker with his reads. A playmaker who makes the kind of plays that are impossible to coach.
Notre Dame doesn’t need Wimbush or its offense to be unstoppable this weekend to leave Miami with their playoff hopes intact. They do, however, need them to continue inching their way to that level to head home knowing they probably have their playoff destiny on their own hands. He’s been doing it each of the last few weeks. If he doesn’t stop now, a few of us might be changing our plans for New Years Eve.