Don’t Look Now But Notre Dame Needs Another Quarterback Competition This Spring

The headline will be more alarming than it should be, but it is nonetheless true. Generally, people hate quarterback competitions; they are awkward, can divide the team (as Drue Tranquill admitted the 2016 competition did), and they can slow the growth of the team overall. But, that is as much an indication of the poor job Kelly did that season than the competition itself.

Kelly talked about needing to take the next step toward winning a national championship in 2019, and I believe that means better quarterback play next season. To be clear, this isn’t some hit piece on Ian Book. He raised the standard of play at the position this year and he is one of a handful of players where without him, 12-0 doesn’t happen. He played very well. However, he has areas where he needs to grow and if someone else excels in those areas then that person should be the starter. And the only way to see that person rise to the occasion is to give them the chance to do so.

Ian Book

Book has started 10 games for the Fighting Irish football team and has won nine of them, so that’s obviously very good and an indication he can play winning football. He finished 17th nationally in passer rating, just behind his Saturday counterpart Trevor Lawrence, and 9th in completion percentage. It wasn’t just the team that thrived around him, the stats showed he was the driver behind it. He played well, therefore the team played well. However, there was a steady drop in performance from week to week as teams got film of him in the offense, and his efficiency took a dip as well.

His passer rating dipped from 181.21 in September to 162.46 in October to 150.64 in November. He also saw his completion percentage fall from 76% in September and October to 61% in November. We also saw dips in the overall performance of the offense during this time.

Looking at the teams offensive percentile performance, per S&P+, over the last nine regular season games they really hit against Wake Forest and Stanford, Ian first two starts, at 87% and 81%. The following weeks saw some steep drops, however. 76% against Virginia Tech, 23% against Pitt, 72% against Syracuse, and 51% against USC. In all, Ian’s offense never broke 85% post-Wake Forest, and after Stanford only broke 80% against Navy (83%), and Northwestern (81%). The teams highest offensive performance on the season was 94% against Florida State, a Brandon Wimbush production.

The team wasn’t the high powered juggernaut we thought we had following the first two weeks of the Ian Book era.

It should be noted that Book was dealing with a rib injury that he played through against Northwestern, which kept him out against Florida State, and apparently lingered into the end of the season, according to reports. That could have been a factor in the drop in play. But, the Clemson performance was a similar story.

Book was under a lot of pressure against Clemson, as we all knew was coming, but 61% and 5.9 yards per attempt from a clean pocket is pretty poor. Clemson is the best of the best, but that’s the standard. And in college football, the ability to play from a clean pocket is not always a luxury you are afforded with.

(As an aside, does is make more sense to you why Notre Dame went with Wimbush against Michigan and kept with him the following two games? His scrambling and improvising ability was really important.)

Which brings us to Book’s competition.

Phil Jurkovec

As a reminder, Jurkovec is the 6-5, 215 pound 83rd ranked prospect from the 2018 class at quarterback. He won a state title at public high school Pine-Richland in Pennsylvania, which is no small thing.

Here’s a refresher for what he can do:

What strikes here is his mobility, obviously, but also his ability to make throws while on the run and moving the pocket. This is something Wimbush couldn’t do consistently and that Book didn’t excel in, although he was a playmaker at times escaping the pocket, his touchdown to Boykin against Virginia Tech being an example.

But again, we’re talking about the top of the sport here, which is where Notre Dame wants to get to. They need to find out if Jurkovec can get them there.


I’d honestly expect Book to win this battle, he played really well last season. And he was able to improve his game from 2017 to 2018, there is no reason to think he won’t make similar strides going into next season. But, Notre Dame also can’t afford to be stagnant at this spot. They were not good enough to reach the pinnacle in 2018, and improving the position will get them there.

As for dealing with a quarterback battle, I think Kelly, Chip Long, and Tommy Rees are good enough to manage it. It’s what they are paid to do, and they handled the quarterback situation in 2018 quite well. We saw Alabama and Clemson make similar decisions, replacing successful quarterbacks for the upside of a title, Notre Dame wasn’t afraid to do it last season, and shouldn’t be afraid this season.

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  1. I have not been to a practice in decades, but I still live around here guys. I’ve got to say, I have not heard one single person around here raving about PJ, or singing his praises, or anything at all about him. Let’s at least see what Phil can/cannot do in the Blue/Gold game this spring before ending the starting career of a 10-1 QB everyone loved just 1 week ago…don’t you think?

    BGC ’77 ’82

    1. Bruce,

      Book was not that good the last quarter of the season. He regressed bigtime. Also, getting the ball out on time is great and all and hitting short passes can win you some games. But Book cannot make the downfield throw and doesn’t have the arm for the intermediate throws either. We were all slightly blinded by the ND team record of being undefeated and scoring some more points each game. But nobody was exactly calling out Book’s stats in the last few games and how there was regression every game.

      Sometimes not having the physical tools catches up with you. This is something both Wimbush and Jurkovec at least have. I think we develop Jurkovec right now. He is the highest rated QB recruit to come to ND under Kelly and has all of the physical tools to go with it. Book hit his ceiling, it’s the truth. I think you go with Jurkovec going forward with Book to fill a backup role in which we know he is legit for that.

      1. Book had an injury to his ribs that bothered his throwing in the last quarter of the season.

  2. Monday morning quarterbacking is always 20-20. It would have been interesting to see how Wimbush would have performed. As the game got out of hand and happy feet set in I was hoping for a change. Not even a cameo appearance for his last game..

  3. Brandon Wimbush should not transfer. Kelly should have played him in the 2nd half. He can win back the starting job and may be a better competitor than Book. Sometimes, that’s what you need. Saban pulled Hurts last year when their O wasn’t going anywhere. Kelly should have done the same thing.
    We need to be more aggressive on offense and defense.

  4. Without 2 fumble reversals and the Love injury, it could have been a very different game, even though Clemson likely would still have won. Bubby

  5. We can’t get the same caliber of athletes as Alabama and Clemson. Simple. As long as that exists we’ll NEVER be in that upper echelon. The Clemson game demonstrated that. Their defensive line was unstoppable and everyone wants to fire BK because his teams aren’t ready and prepared to be overpowered. Good gawd. Just recently has ND come back into the national conversation and fans are ready to throw him out for what? 2-10 regular season records… ummm, when was the last national championship? Sorry, without the elite 5 star athletes, NEVER going to happen ??

      1. If this is true, how is it that ND is 5-2 against Alabama all-time? You know, at one in history, the elites were coming to South Bend. So, I’m not sold entirely on demographics.

  6. Against top 5 teams dinking and dunking doesn’t work . It’s about big plays in the passing game, and some easy points .Their points came on 4 PLAYS. The deep passing game has to develop. We had 1 against Michigan and 1 against VT. All options in the spring need to be looked at .

  7. Clemson beat tOSU 31-0 in the playoffs a few years ago and nobody called for the program to be destroyed.
    Just relax.

    1. The difference Ron is there are more ND bashers than those who trash THE Ohio State University. The
      Irish are not worthy refrain is resonating around the country. The only way to stop it is to start winning major bowl games again.

    2. Ron,
      Nobody on the Committee has invited them to the big dance since then, either. Still, I’m glad for Urban that OSU won his final game for him. He deserved that.

      BGC ’77 ’82

  8. HERE we go again ‘ FIRE THE COACH ‘ !! HE was voted coach of the year because he does more with less than any other coach in the country!! No 5 stars , 4 new starters on o-line, two QBS who couldn’t start for any of the top 10 teams in the country!! PJ FLECK hasn’t done anything at MINNESOTA, wow he beat GA TECH in the nothing bowl WOOO HOOO!!! JUMP SHIP GUYS , just don’t jump back on next year hang out with dopey davey!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. NDCM, I just see job burnout in BK. He just seems to have lost that killer instinct. Really, it’s time for Him to coach the Packers like Dan Devine. Now for the cause for Fleck. C’mom he came here when the Gophers were one of the laughing stock of Big 10. He hits the sleds with the team. Just think what he could do at ND. He is absolutely fearless. He even beat rival Badgers. First time in what 13 years. ND just signed Quin Carroll best player in Minnesota. Can’t wait to hear Dopey “ Rock the boat” I’m watching Narduzzi’s Panthers vs. the Cardinal. If He can beat Shaw I’d consider Him also.

      1. REALLY GREG? PJ FLECK REALLY? 5-7 In his first year at MINN. 7-6 THIS YEAR! WOW that’s great losses to MARYLAND by 29pts , to IOWA by 17pts , OHIO ST by 16pts, NEBRASKA by 25pts ( WHAT ) ILLINOIS by 24pts and finally Northwestern by 10pts!! THATS WHO YOU WANT? HE SHOULD BE EASY TO GET, MAYBE YOU CAN HIT THE SLEDS WITH HIM B4 HE HITS THE SKIDS!!! UNBELIEVABLE GK, YOUR OUTTA YOUR MIND!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      2. You’re right the sane go 12-1 the crazy go 13-1 and the insane go 14-0. Bama will make road kill out of the tigers. You will be happy ND didn’t appear in NC.

  9. I agree with Shaun. This is a major broken record for BK. QB comes in, we hear he’s the perfect QB for BK’s system, he starts impressively, has a bad game and flames out. Rinse-repeat. It’s to the point that I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens again with Jurkovec. Book will just be the next in a long line of QB has-beens for BK. I still remember Golson coming in, he’s going to be explosive, the next QB legend. Nope, well how bout Zaire. He has tremendous zone read abilities. Nope, how bout Kizer, now he was the best of the bunch but he too was prone to mistakes, leaves for NFL and we now have Wimbush. He’s special, he’s going to go all the way, nope, benched in favor of Book. Lights up the offense until he gets hurt and defenses start realizing he isn’t a deep threat. Let’s but Jurkovec in. Does any honestly think we won’t be wondering where he’ll be transferring to in a year or so because he got benched in favor of the next big QB?

    Against Clemson, I think it was a bad call to not make a QB change just to try to spark something. I mean, you have Wimbush just sitting there waiting to be called up. I would have given him a chance to do something at least coming out at halftime. I would have put Jurkovec in sometimes during the last quarter unless we were making some progress.

    1. No Way Kelly is bringing Wimbush into the game after announcing he is leaving the program and transferring. I think he would’ve replaced Book with Jurkovek if he was going to make a change. Obviously Kelly never felt Jurkovek was ready to step in this year let alone the playoff game.

      1. Exactly my thought, and that’s childish. We want to win the game. If Wimbush could have helped make that happen, he should’ve played. I said Kelly probably wasn’t putting him in because he was mad about the transfer plans.

  10. Will the OL be developed enough without Bars and Mustipher and the explosive Williams to give whichever QB time to run the offense (they didn’t several times this year, especially early with Wimbush, : also, see Pitt and most of the SC game). Whether Love leaves or not (and I suspect whether he chooses to return or not will have more to do with whether he believes his return will be worth it re: what he sees as NDs chances to be a contender next year as much as whether he’ll go in the second or third round). Will NDs D be dominant enough without Tillery, Coney, Tranquil and probably Love? Without those four, we wouldn’t have had to be concerned about Clemson; ND would have been playing in a lesser bowl. Who is there to step up to keep ND among the top few teams? This team was the team that had the best chance at challenging the elite throughout Kelly’s years. What I saw was a team with less talent , yes, but one ill- prepared when it most counted. Did anyone expect Clemson to pass that much that early ? What did ND try that Clemson hadn’t prepared for during their month of preparation? With extra prep time, coaching matters, even when the other team has more talent. I don’t put the loss on the staff, but I do put the rout on them. The talent level in 2018 wasn’t at Clemson’s level, but every game ND won they won with better talent than their opponent. With the departures on D, next year will more clearly tell the tale about whether ND has the adequate coaching staff to develop the 2019 team into a contender without their best players returning. I have finally learned to keep my expectations in check. To next year’s staff, those of us who simply aren’t rah-rahs will be watching to see whether this staff is good enough to keep ND among the several best teams in college football. I have no doubt the players will do their all to excel. I’ll be watching to see if the coaching staff will be sufficient enough to develop players and strategy – or return to a 9-3 program like they’ve been for most of Kelly’s tenure. I won’t move on to ‘Plan B’ on Saturdays next Fall,but I won’t be drinking the kool-aid and making excuses if ND does return to an eight or nine win team.
    I’ll be the first to give credit if ND is among the best next season, but I’m not expecting I’ll need to.

  11. The big problem as I see it between Notredame and the other 4 or 5 elite programs is most all on the offense side of the ball. I looked back the last 5 years at all the past playoff and national title winners and all those teams averaged between 43 and 50 points a game In Kelly’s 9 years 6 of those years Notredame averaged 28 points a game and the 3 other years 34 33 and 32 points a game.We lost against Clemson because Notredame lacks explosive receivers running backs. a good backup Quarterback in Book etc. Let’s be honest guys outside of Dexter William’s no other player on Notredames offense would start for Alabama Clemson Oklahoma Ohio State Georgia. Imho.Notredames defense was good this year Good enough to win the national championship if they had a great offense. You don’t Lincoln Riley and Oklahoma would love to have Notredames defense.

  12. My old man was old school, line em up and who throws the longest is the QB. But, in today’s political correctness even the swimsuit competition for Miss America has been eliminated. Oh, and there are 3 openings in NFL as of yesterday, very tempting. If BK were to suddenly leave I’ve got the replacement right here in Minnesota, Young, energetic, PJ Fleck. He just beat GA Tech in Motor City Bowl.

    1. GK,
      Fleck is a good coach. He went to Minnesota for a number of reasons. One of which is to stay in the Midwest on a certain team’s radar. Hint: they wear golf helmets.

    1. Kelly and Skip Long’s offensive game plan definitely the reason for the loss.

      Just saying that Book was ‘shook’ all game long.

      Our defense, minus Vaughn and Pride, who allowed too many 3rd and longs, was spectacular.
      Minus 20 points in last 3-5 minutes of first half, and only 7 over last 30 minutes, we look like ‘contenders’,
      that is if we had an offensive game plan.

      Didn’t see that usual fire in Kelly’s eyes. Most times he had the ‘deer in headlights’ look.

      1. ‘Fire’ was replaced with ‘sedated glaze’ 2 years ago.

        But he survived 4-8 at ND…..which just got him voted Houdini…..err Coach…of the Year.
        So now which is it….a bonus or a raise?

    2. WELCOME BACK STUPID!! dopey davey returns, and after 1 loss alotta cryin babies with you!! waa haa we lost fire the coach, try to evaluate the talent level between CLEMSON and ND that’s why they were 14 pt underdogs stupid!!!

  13. When will Brian Kelly add a power running component to the ND offense? A finesse offense doesn’t work against more athletic offenses ( Alabama, Clemson). The reliance on the zone run results in too many negative plays in the running game. A little creativity in the running game would be welcome.

  14. Short of a few good passes and one first down run, Book was just outclassed vs Clemson.

    Underthrows all night long and apparently focused on only primary receiver. Too many hesitant and non-throws

    For that game only, I think Kelly should have mixed up our offensive with Wimbush in for a few possessions.

    Is it just me but, watching his highlight tape, not lovin’ Jurkovecs’ throwing motion. Looks like he’s short arming his throws.

    30 years and counting…

  15. Jurkovec should be given chance to be a starter in 2019. It’s too bad he didn’t get into the game against Clemson in 2nd half. He would’ve still retained his red shirt. He’s going to have to be looked at seriously next spring — see if he is the future QB — and I don’t mean 2020, 2021 — but next fall versus Louisville.

      1. THOUGHT you had run off after 12-0 season, but 1 loss later and stupidity is back!! Did u tape the game and watch it later or did mommy let you watch it live dope??

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