Is Notre Dame Turning To Ian Book To Jump Start The Offense?

It all started with a afternoon text message: Notre Dame might be starting Ian Book this weekend. First it was just a rumor on a site, then it was another site, then it was all over Twitter, and by the time Brian Kelly said both quarterbacks would play this weekend during his Thursday presser, it was assumed Ian Book was starting.

“They’re both going to play. I’ve said that all year. We need both to win, and they’re both ready,” Brian Kelly said when asked about the starting quarterback for Saturday.

Asked specifically about Book, Kelly stated, “We think he’s a good quarterback. We recruited him to Notre Dame to win championships just as we did with Brandon. That’s why we put him in the game against Vanderbilt. If we put him in this weekend, it will be because we believe he can help us win.”

For some this is a little baffling; quarterback changes following wins is out of the norm. For others, this is long overdue. Notre Dame hasn’t been getting consistent play at quarterback during the Brandon Wimbush era. He’s beaten some very good teams, but it’s also hard to predict what we’ll see week to week. That’s a hard way to play. But, Wimbush looked great against Michigan, and Notre Dame is ranked in the top 10 and is undefeated. So why make this change?

Several reasons, actually.

Inconsistent Offense

Notre Dame is an offensive juggernaut early in the first quarter and the first drive of the second half and below average the rest of the time. They rank 117th nationally in three and out percentage. They’ve scored 24 points or less in each of the last six games with Wimbush as the starter. There is a debate about how much that has to do with him, but six games is a big enough sample size to say there is higher level of play that can be reached and maybe it’s time to see if the other guy can reach it. Notre Dame simply isn’t getting the most out of their weapons right now and that has to change. Making a move at quarterback seems to make the most sense to see if the offense can take the next step.

Lack Of Big Plays

Part of the allure of Wimbush is his big play potential. He’s dynamite as a runner and he has a big arm. Boom or bust kind of guy. What you give up in sustainability and consistency, you gain in the chunk plays. But the big plays have been hard to come by so far this season. Notre Dame has just four plays–two running, two throwing–of over 30 yards on the season, with a long of 43. They’ve got two scores over 30 yards: the 43 yarder to Finke against Michigan, and the 31 yard run by Tony Jones Jr. against Ball State.

The drives have needed to be methodical and that’s not Wimbush’s game. He can do it, but not time and time again, which is why the team stalls at times. You give an inconsistent player lots of cracks with the whip, you’re going to get a mixed bag of results. So, if the offense lacks punch, maybe it’s better to play the guy better suited to sustain his play.

Poor Decision Making

This has long been Wimbush’s greatest weakness, much more so than his inaccuracy. And I think should a move be made, will be what ultimately did in Wimbush. Interestingly enough, Wimbush has been much more accurate this year. His completion percentage has risen six points from last season, and he hasn’t had the wild misses to open receivers like we saw last season.

Unfortunately, those have been replaced by passes into double coverage, on multiple occasions. He also has struggled with the zone read, and went a whole game only handing off to the running backs on those plays, 18 attempts worth. Wimbush hasn’t always put his team in the best position, and it has led to some stalled drives.

I believe this has been his ultimate downfall: not getting the ball to the right person play after play. That has to be frustrating for the offensive coordinator, who may feel he’s called the right play and it didn’t get to the correct person, or he has the right play in mind but can’t count on his quarterback to get it where it needs to go.

How Much Is This Going To Help?

The thing here is, I’m not sure how much changing the quarterback actually matters. Wimbush hasn’t been that bad and while he played below average against Ball State, his offensive line was also a dumpster fire. Maybe some of that he should have overcome, but would Ian Book have survived better? I’m not sure he would have.

And Wimbush was good against Michigan. He made the throws he needed to make, while under constant pressure, threw a touchdown pass, had another touchdown pass called back because his receiver lined up wrong, and was a huge Alize Mack drop up the seam away from another big scoring drive.

He was also 12-22 against Vanderbilt, with two more drops from Finke and Claypool, and with a receiving corps that largely had trouble getting open. So, I’m not sure changing quarterbacks solves the issue of receivers not beating coverage, or having a line that is inconsistent.

Maybe having Book in there gives Chip Long more freedom to call the types of plays he wants, but lets be honest about the fact that if Book was obviously better than Wimbush he’d have been the starter from Day 1. However, game day isn’t practice and Book has shown the ability to raise his game in big moments.

Whatever the case may be, we know there is another level (or two) for this offense to reach given the players they have and perhaps Ian Book is the one to help them reach it.

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  1. Remove Kelly from the mix and see immediate progress. His leadership of the Fighting Irish has been a complete disaster the entire time he has been head coach,this years nearly and and “should have been losses” to Ball State and Vandy should have sealed his fate. As long as we continue to go with Kelly we will never claim a national championship.

  2. Change here is long overdue. Book played well against a much better defense in the bowl game v LSU. 4 chunk plays of 30+ in 3 games isn’t getting it done. The pass to Finke was a bad pass that Finke fought through but could easily have been an INT for 0 TD and 5 INT. I don’t know if Book will play better than BW, but it seems reasonable to conclude that BW won’t play better than BW’s played.

    12-22 against VAN is not a positive stat at all. I don’t care if it was 2 drops and should have been 14-22. One of the drops was behind the receiver and high. Those numbers that are barely clearing 50% are boosted by low percentage, low yield screen passes. There is no passing threat so they can take away the run game including QB scramble. 117th in 3 &outs says it all.

    1. Maybe, but no interceptions against Vandy is an important stat…more in line with what I expected from BW as a second year starter…as was the Michigan game performance pretty much what I expected. The annoying game for Wimbush, to me, the inexplicable game, was Ball State.

      BGC ’77 ’82

      1. No Int’s against Vanderbilt cause the DB’s dropped the ball. Re watch the game. Book will lengthen the field and most likely open holes for the
        BW hasn’t been getting it done. Can’t make the simple move the chain passes or hit wide open
        receivers. Finke fought for a badly thrown ball against Michigan. That should have been another int. BW gets too much hype. He can’t throw and his athleticism isn’t so good where he NEEDS to be on the field. Book has shown he can
        scramble. And his upside is passing.
        We’ll see tomr GO IRISH

  3. Why make this change?? What change? This is what has happened all year. Both quarterbacks have been playing already. BK hasn’t said anything different. Slow news day, I guess.

  4. Wimbush scares the hell out of me when he drops back to pass. I pray he does not throw an interception and am pleasantly surprised
    when he throws an accurate pass. This is not normal. One should get excited when the QB drops back not terrified. Use Wimbush in the 4th Quarter as a running QB
    when the opposing team’s defense is fatigued. Fresh legs against tired legs = big gains by Wimbush. Pretty simple solution

  5. Would this be yet another QB bust under BK? Hmm. That’s why I have my doubts about Jurkovec being the elite QB everything thinks. Now that’s not because Jurkovec can’t be elite. He probably can. It’s just I’m under the belief that BK will find a way to ruin Jurkovec like he has so many others.

    As for Book, yeah, he’s looked pretty good and has won games for the Irish. He seems like a tough kid and in some ways reminds me of Tommy Rees in that way. He’s a reliable go to guy. Maybe he won’t be the next elite QB in CFB but he’s a guy that you can turn to, like Rees was.

    As for BW. Well, it’ll be a shame if Book becomes our QB for the rest of the season and BW is on the bench because he is lethal with the ball in his hands and on his feet, in open or closed space. I wish they’d find a way to get him in as a RB because frankly I think he could outshine even Josh Adams as a RB. He needs to be on the field. If he wants to play in the NFL it will not be as a QB, it will be as a RB or maybe WR (I’d bet more on RB). Why not start now? …..But what will likely happen is Book will morph into the starter, BW will smolder on the bench thinking about what school he’s transferring to next year for his 5th year (I believe he has one more year of eligibility left)

  6. I guess if BK were ever to try this now is the time. The schedule gets more difficult, room for error gone…. I think Wimbush has been the best offensive player by far this season. He’s the only juice we have on offense right now until BK says enough is enough with his big tall slow questionable hands receivers. That being said if Book can produce a better downfield threat which opens up the run game then so be it. I can’t see Book making that type impact without Dex in backfield to pose a true threat. I’m of the mindset that you experiment until you muck it up.. just don’t muck it up against a bottom feeder ACC team..

    1. I agree. I actually think this has more to do with the WR’s. ND seems to recruit great WR’s and TE’s every year but we can’t seem to get any production out of those groups.

      I think Dexter coming back will be a shot in the arm vs. Stanford and I think there needs to be a change at WR more than at QB.

      But if they are going to make a change, I would rather give Jurkovec the keys at this point and let Book be the backup. Wimbush can graduate and transfer for a 5th year.

  7. I think this is a good move by Kelly. The sample size is small for Book so it’s hard to tell how good he is compared to Wimbush. In the few games he played he seems to be good with the read option and pro game. He also seems to be more accurate a passer than Wimbush and seems to see the field better.I guess we will find out Saturday.

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