Notre Dame QB Brandon Wimbush Ready to Star

Following a 4-8 season that saw Notre Dame use a dual-quarterback system that proved to be ineffective, head coach Brian Kelly and new offensive coordinator Chip Long are focused in 2017 on one signal caller to handle those duties. Unless an injury occurs, that’s going to be¬†sophomore Brandon Wimbush, who saw limited action as a true freshman two years ago before being redshirted during the 2016 campaign.

Firmly entrenched as Notre Dame’s starting quarterback though, Wimbush is ready to become a star. Today our series of breakout stars for Notre Dame in 2017 rolls on with Brandon Wimbush.

Pedigree & Career to Date

Coming out of St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City, New Jersey, Wimbush was ranked among the top five quarterbacks in the nation within his recruiting class. The reason stemmed from his ability to combine solid passing skills with mobility, throwing for nearly 3,200 yards while also connecting on 37 touchdown passes as a senior. In addition, he ran for over 700 yards and scored five times on the ground.

The 6-2, 225-pound Wimbush was originally destined to play at Penn State, but he changed his mind in October 2014 and found Kelly and his staff ready to scoop him up. That was despite the Irish not being on the list of his other four original options of Boston College, Miami, Ohio State and Virginia Tech.

During his freshman season the following year, Wimbush saw action in two games and gave a hint of his potential in mop-up duty against Massachusetts. He connected on three of five passes for 17 yards while rushing for 92 yards, one of those a 58-yard scoring run.

Despite not taking the field last year, Kelly was impressed by Wimbush’s maturity concerning his status and his development in the all-important role as team leader. During spring practice, Wimbush got the majority of snaps and was handed the reins for the upcoming year. In the Blue and Gold game, he threw for 302 yards on 22-of-32, though he did fall victim to a pair of picks.

Why Brandon Wimbush Will Breakout

Wimbush’s versatility and the aforementioned maturity will help invigorate an offense that struggled to find its way on a regular basis last year. The fact that he’s actually seen time on the field, even if it was during garbage time, should avoid the risk of being awestruck in taking over behind center.

Even though Wimbush has been the odds-on favorite to start ever since DeShone Kizer announced he was headed to the NFL, he continues to look for ways to improve his overall abilities. During his spring break, he traveled to San Diego for one specific reason. It wasn’t to party, it was to work with noted quarterback coach George Whitfield.

Another factor that lends itself to Wimbush breaking through is the knowledge that Chip Long’s embracing of run-pass option plays is something that he handled during his high school career. The fact that he’s shown himself to be a quick study gives rise to the hope that he’ll quickly take advantage of that experience in the early part of the season.

Finally, the Irish offensive line is expected to be much improved from last season, which should keep Wimbush away from a high level of defensive harassment. Headed by tackle Mike McGlinchey, this unit has four starters back and also has offensive line coach Harry Hiestand back. He’s produced a bevy of talented lineman in the past, with 2016 likely having been an aberration.

Why Brandon Wimbush Might Not Breakout

The Notre Dame schedule for 2017 has a number of challenges, including matchups against teams like Georgia, Southern Cal and Stanford. That’s an imposing series of roadblocks, even for an experienced quarterback. For someone who’s seen next to no action, it might end up undercutting any real chance he has to make an impact.

If the offensive line doesn’t have a resurgence, it might be a rerun of last year’s misery. Right tackle is the spot to keep an eye on, given the simple fact that this will be where the lone newcomer takes up residence. If Tommy Kraemer or Liam Eichenberg doesn’t come through, then Wimbush could be under siege.

Even if Wimbush has immersed himself in Long’s new offense, there’s no guarantee that it leads to victories across the board. If there are stumbles during the season, it can stagnate the quarterback’s development and given that the room for error in South Bend this season is slim, that could be deadly.

As adept as Wimbush can be when he runs, his footwork is still open to further improvement. The hope is that the offseason and training camp will help work out the kinks so that the Irish offense won’t have to be over-reliant on the running game. If it is, that might end up costing Kelly and his coaches at the end of the season.

2017 Outlook

Talented players regularly find their way to South Bend, with this year’s edition of the Notre Dame offense no stranger to that phenomenon. The good thing for Wimbush is that he has quality in the backfield with Josh Adams and among his receiving corps with wideouts like Equanimeous St. Brown and the expected return of tight end Alize Mack. Equally important is the fact that he has a veteran offensive line.

Wimbush has the smarts to pick up reads, though it’s important to remember that his body of work in college football is microscopic. That means that growing pains are inevitable during the course of the year, though the expectation is that his learning curve will be a short one.

Considering the fanfare that came with the arrival of Wimbush two years ago, setting a high bar isn’t out of the question when it comes to this year’s prospects. If he comes anywhere close to that level, the Irish comeback will commence and Wimbush will be the one at the controls.

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12 Comments

  1. As anathema as this advice sounds to Kelly’s “elsewhere successful” ways, RUN THE DAMN BALL. WiMbush will be WiNbush as long as we Irish don’t try and get cute with our “West-Coast” BS-offense. Football is football. THE TEAM THAT SCORES MORE POINTS WINS. Always. Gob bless and GOIRISH!

  2. As anathema as this a dice sounds to Kelly’s “elsewhere successful” ways, RUN THE DAMN BALL. WiMbush will be WiNbush as long as we Irish don’t try and get cute with our “West-Coast” BS-offense. Football is football. THE TEAM THAT SCORES MORE POINTS WINS. Always.

  3. Thanks Duranko. It was Ev Golson that went out to San Diego to brush up his skills. Now, hopefully Wimbush will have learned something getting tutored there also.

  4. No worries about the offense. The 2017 Irish will sink or swim on 2 things that have nothing to do with the BW (although the almost predicatble appearance of back-breaking turnovers in huge situations has plagued the BK era):The defense HAS to get stops and get off the field. The Irish will not be a real threat nationally without a HUGE defensive upgrade. The other is the awful play of special teams. Why is it that our kickoff/return and punt/punt return teams always suck? And hopefully Yoon figures it out (I think he will). It is just that simple with this team. Go Irish!

  5. I like what Wimbush brings to the table, and that he takes nothing for granted. We all know he is the starter, but he’s not making any assumptions.

    My main concern is their is a lot of pressure on his shoulders. I mean, lets me honest, BK’s future rests a lot on his shoulders, and this is his first year of real action with in game consequences. That’s not to say the other players don’t have to make contributions, they do, but there is some margin for error. For instance, you have more than 1 receiver out there, more than one linebacker. If one guy messes up, you have others that to an extent can pick up some of the slack. But there’s only one QB out there. He needs to succeed from day one, there will be no honeymoon period for Wimbush.

    Now I think he has a good head on his shoulders. And so far the staff seems to be doing a good job keeping him focused. The first test will be Temple, and I think that is a good place to start. Temple, while no pushover, is going through some changes right now that should play to ND’s advantage, esp. considering it’s the first game. This will give Wimbush a chance to get his feet wet without a ton of pressure. Also, I keep going back to it, but ND is flying under the radar as far as the media goes. There’s the occasional BK on the hot seat report, but they’re more focused on the top 10 teams and who will make the playoff, and ND is not in those conversations right now. For now, I think that’s a good thing. There’s been no real soap opera problems this off season also. That allows ND to proceed without a lot of distractions. If ND plays well and wins games, everything will fall into place, but right now it’s just nice to be a little anonymous as the team and Wimbush attempt to rebuild the ND name this year. Sometimes no news really is good news.

    1. Damian , Irish were under radar in 2012 — ranked # 24 or # 25 start of season. Kept climbing week after week. Even ranked ahead were Fresno State and Northern Illinois(QB was in Heisman race) at some point. Irish kept winning and the teams ranked higher kept falling. Then the blockbuster weekend when Kansas State and I think Oregon or was it Texas Christian who lost. Corrections welcomed here on my memory. So , here we are again same kind of situation for 2017 Irish. The road ahead is difficult with a daunting schedule. Notre Dame rated at bottom of polls akin to 2012—can they creep up game by game and let the dominoes fall of teams ranked higher . We’ll know what this 2017 Irish team is capable of doing after a brutal September schedule. If they come unscathed/undefeated — keep your roll checked. Who can forget the 6-0 Irish loss to FSU and the implosion that followed.

      1. It was Kansas State and Oregon that lost on the same night (I don’t recall to who). I remember because we only needed one of those teams to lose. Alabama was actually out of the hunt because they had lost a game. Kansas State, Oregon and Notre Dame were all undefeated. When they both lost on the same night I was like OMG, if we win out we’re in. Now in retrospect, we might have been better off if only one of those teams lost because we know what happened.

  6. There are a few facts worth noting.

    First, Wimbush has a lot of experience IN SOUTH BEND at practice, under some pretty fair QB gurus, including Mike
    Sanford and Tommy Rees along with Chip Long.

    Jalen Hurts started as a TRUE frosh

    Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel won Heismans with one less year on campus than Wimbush has.

    Hanratty started as a true soph

    Golson started as a redshirt frosh.

    Rees started, under duress and in midseason, as a true frosh.
    Tom Clements started as a soph.

    Joe Theismann was forced to start, when Hanratty was injured, as a true soph.

    So while he doesn’t have varsity snaps of any quantity, he has been around, learning watching.

    Wimbush is the best runner at QB we’ve had in a long time who can throw (Zaire was mostly a runner).

    The concern about the offensive line fascinates me. Sure, it ain’t over til it’s over, but you have four returning starters, a
    pedigreed redshirt frosh in Kraemer and are much more physical under Balis. There are holes on this team. You all can worry about the offensive line, but my surmise is that it will be a great strength of the team, and one of the top Five OLS
    nationally.

    Finally, and this is very important, Wimbush is a natural born leader and he works at it. Leadership is the most underrated aspect of quarterbacking, particularly in modernity when stats and fantasy football lead the world. One of the laughable
    self-delusions of the Fat man’s era was that Clausen was an outstanding QB. Hogwash, he was a thrower, a video game or fantasy football qb. Not only was he not a leader, but he was a net negative in his influence on his teammates. Don’t
    believe me, just ask John Sullivan.

    I love what Brad did arguing both sides of the question, but this kid is good to go.

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