Ian Book Returning to Notre Dame for Unfinished Business

The seasoned Notre Dame quarterback will be returning to the Irish for a fifth year. In back-to-back seasons, Ian Book has led the Irish to the College Football Playoffs and another 11-win season last fall. With the departure of Chip Long and most of the skilled position players, Ian Book will have to lead the capable young offense in 2020.

Ian Book’s 2019 Passing Statistics

  • 240 for 399 (60%)
  • 3,034 total passing yards
  • 34 passing touchdowns with six interceptions

Ian Book’s 2019 Rushing Statistics

  • 112 rushing attempts for 546 yards (4.9 yards per carry)
  • 2nd on team in total rushing yards
  • 4 Rushing Touchdowns

Who will be the next offensive coordinator?

Tommy Rees leading candidate. There have not been many rumors surrounding Chip Long’s replacement for 2020. Former Notre Dame Quarterback, Tommy Rees, has been the clear-cut candidate since the search began. His one-game audition in the Camping World Bowl was respectable, but truly not a large enough sample size.

Notre Dame needs a coordinator that can go toe-to-toe with top defensive minds such as Brent Venables (Clemson), who the Irish will face next year. Coach Kelly has a difficult decision to make in the next few weeks. Is Tommy Rees ready for such a stage? Fans will find out if Brian Kelly believes so in the upcoming weeks, as his search continues.

A few other names have been linked to the OC position. The biggest name that has seen some traction as of late is ex- Mississippi State Head Coach Joe Moorhead. He is one of the best available play-callers in the country, but it’s uncertain whether Coach Kelly would pursue him. Former Notre Dame Assistant, Mike Denbrock, is also a possible candidate. Denbrock has been the OC with Cincinnati the past few seasons.

Key Departures on Offense

Chase Claypool

The Irish wide receiver was the best player on the field in almost every game last season. Without Claypool, Notre Dame would not have been able to tally 11 victories last fall. In 2019, the Irish standout compiled 66 receptions for 1,037 yards with 13 touchdowns. No other player on the roster was even close in those categories.

Cole Kmet

Notre Dame’s top tight end, Kmet, had 43 receptions for 515 yards with six touchdowns. Unfortunately, it was in Kmet’s best interest to declare for the NFL Draft. Cole Kmet was a great compliment to Claypool and helped continue the legacy of tight ends at the University.

Chris Finke

The former walk-on was third on the team in receptions. His leadership on and off the field will be missed in 2020. Finke totaled 41 receptions, 456 yards, and four touchdowns. Finke’s departure adds to the production that will not be returning for the Irish next year.

Tony Jones Jr.

Tony Jones Jr. and Ian Book were essentially the entire Notre Dame rushing attack. As Tony Jones Jr. departs, the most experienced Irish running back returning will be Jahmir Smith, who gained 180 rushing yards. The running game was Notre Dame’s biggest vulnerability and will be a point of emphasis this upcoming spring.

Can Ian Book win the big game?

Past Performances:

  • At Georgia (2019): Book went 29 for 47 with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Considering the circumstances and the fact that Notre Dame only totaled 46 rushing yards, it was a respectable performance.
  • At Michigan (2019): Sadly, the game that defined 2019 was the worst showing of the year for Notre Dame and Ian Book in particular. Facing the Wolverines, Ian Book went 8 for 25 through the air. But, in comparison, Shea Patterson only went 6 for 12. Michigan ran for 303 yards, support that Ian Book rarely had during the 2019 campaign.

Future Opportunities:

  • At Lambeau vs. Wisconsin: This matchup has the makings to be one of the biggest games of the entire season. Notre Dame is coming off 23-wins the past two years, coupled with the fact that they will be playing on a field named after former Irish star Curly Lambeau.Conversely, Wisconsin is coming off a season in which they played in the Big Ten Championship and Rose Bowl. This matchup will take place in their backyard; like their recent matchup against the LSU Tigers in 2016.
  • Clemson (Home) How historic is this clash? Notre Dame fans were already talking about this matchup before the Irish played their bowl game. Whether or not Clemson wins the national title this year, this matchup will have significant College Football Playoff implications.

In recent memory, the Irish have had to travel to play their biggest games of the season (e.g. Georgia and Michigan last year). Not this time around, Brian Kelly will have the help of Touchdown Jesus and Notre Dame Stadium.

Final Thoughts

Brian Kelly has finally hit his stride in South Bend. The Notre Dame Head Coach has finished the past three seasons with a 33-6 record, including a berth in the College Football Playoffs. Ian Book is the most experienced quarterback returning to South Bend in quite some time.

It’s easy to say, but a national championship will be won or lost in the offseason looking for coaches to replace Chip Long and Todd Lyght. If Coach Kelly can press the right buttons, it may be enough to get Notre Dame back into the playoffs. Just look at the impact of Ed Orgeron hiring Joe Brady from the New Orleans Saints.

Every team in the playoffs this season had a quarterback in the Heisman conversation. Ian Book needs to become that leader for this Notre Dame team in 2020. The Irish have been successful these past several seasons, but the difference between 11-wins and a national championship will be how high Ian Book can raise his level of play and leadership.

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  1. Well gentlemen, We’ve seen a string of BK quarterback’s have a good first year, then crash and burn during year two. It’s been well documented on this site and elsewhere. But now we will see, for the first time, a QB get through year two in pretty good fashion, and then start a THIRD successive season (and with a very experienced and deep O-line). None of us has ever seen that before, so none of us has any idea what it will look like…it certainly will look nothing like Ian Book’s many predecessors at quarterback.

    BGC ’77 ’82

  2. I think Reese does a very good job with the quarterbacks and would leave him their. Kelly needs to go outside and bring in a great young coordinator like LSU did. Looking at Notredame next year like the last 2 years they will go as far as the offense takes them. Imo next year and the last 2 years Notredames defense has been good enough to win a national championship if they had a great offense to go with I th. Special teams are good with Polian just got to get the offense clicking.

    1. Young guys with ambition and potential want to work for guys who can help ’em get there.
      Kelly is looking at Boca Raton condos.

  3. Once, a long while ago, I was in a friendly, but “hostile” discussion with friends and students about historical atrocities of the crusaders. I guess the response I was supposed to have would be to condemn them all in one swell swoop of the scimitar. But of the Frankish Knights that served at Tours I said only this: “I wish I could be up on that ridge in that field outside Tours to go up and down that front line of Knights and shake hands with each and every one of those guys.”
    Well, this site kind makes me feel the same: I wish I had IAN BOOK’s autograph on my best autograph football (which still has two great open spots on it.) Book has done as much to save ND football, in it’s own non-life or death context, as those Franks did the week they defeated the “undefeatable spiritual” Muslim army at Tours, and literally saved Western Civilization. BTW: The Knights of St. John’s of Jerusalem “did it again” at Malta about 600 years later, the months before, and on, the real September 11!!
    May somebody always be there to do it again, both protecting real lives, like the Knights, and protecting real dreams, like BOOK, and KELLY, and LEA, and 84 other guys.

    BGC ’77 ’82

    1. Well put BGC, I was on vacation for the last 2 weeks and want to wish you a HAPPY and HEALTHY NEW YEAR BUDDY!! p.s. The sky still hasn’t fallen with the departure of PJ !

      1. NDCRAZYMIKE! Ha! You are right sir, the sky has not fallen with the departure of PJ. In fact, I can’t really see that there is any real difference at all!

        BGC ’77 ’82

    2. Nice take BGC. I love history. First thing that came to my mind — “And now for something completely different.” What John Cleese(Monty Python) would say before each episode. Second — is that the Crusaders wore the Holy Cross on the front of their jerseys going int battle. It was cool before “cool” was invented in the Elvis Presely days. Ya know the Fighting Irish of NotreDame of South Bend wore a cross on their helmut in that era when word “cool” was cool. Oh yeah , they severed the heads of Oklahoma Sooners 7-0–back when they ruled the land of College Football. I’m hoping the Irish do same to Clemson Heathens in year 2020. Should the cross on the helmut come back or is it the green jerseys ?

      1. Southside, If we are going to wear green, and presumably have a green out, then every fan should be given an Irish flag at the door. That would cut down on the effect of orange clad Clemson fans, since 1/3 of the flag of Ireland is orange. A better solution is to have a blue out, since almost everyone is much more likely to have a blue winter coat than a green one! But giving everyone green and orange Irish flags would be a funny way to turn the tables on Clemson fans. Obviously the best solution is for our “sell outs” to actually hang on to their tickets (or at least sell them locally to ND fans)…but that’s not going to happen. I mean what would you expect from a sell out faced with a choice to sell his/her faculty/staff tickets to an ND fan for a pretty good scalp, or a Clemson fan for an extra 30 pieces of silver above and beyond that?
        It’s a rhetorical question – we all know the answer.

        BGC ’77 ’82

  4. I’ve ragged on Book enough and won’t reiterate my points here. Smack around teams like Clemson and Wisconsin and I’ll have a change of heart (gladly I might add).

    But probably even more important are what does BK do with the OC position? I’m not sold on Rees. I would say they did ok against Iowa State in the bowl game. But there are at least 14 points for the taking that were missed. And the offense didn’t always seem like it was clicking. Some of the same issues still reared their head. BUT it was his first game calling plays and running the offense so I don’t want to be too harsh.

    Rees may one day be a great OC. But do we really want to experiment with an untried OC next year? We’re told the next two years could make or break chances for ND to get back to the playoffs. Do we really want to try going all the way with an inexperienced OC? I think BK would be better off getting a tried and tested OC. You won’t get elite because ND doesn’t pay enough, but you can still get a good OC with good experience. BK can and should give Rees more responsibilities. If he thinks Rees will one day be a good OC then he should give him more to do on offense to build up his experience so someday when he takes the reins he’s ready to go. But I don’t think the next two years is the time to try a freshman OC.

  5. “His one-game audition in the Camping World Bowl was respectable, but truly not a large enough sample size.”

    Ehh. I don’t agree. I came away from that game largely unimpressed. We only scored 3 TD’s against a clearly inferior team. We scored less than our season average. We struggled in the red zone. The silver lining was a dominant performance by Claypool who Book will miss immensely.

    I guess if you just looked at the 33 points, you would be happy. But process>results. It was not a great offensive performance. Stalling in the red zone (repeatedly) will get you beat against good teams.

      1. Yeah. There were points out there for ND that they missed out on. The offense did enough to win, but against a good defense they wouldn’t have fared as well. I count at least 14 points for the taking they missed out (and that’s not even counting the FG’s they had to settle for instead of TDs).

        Granted it was Rees first game as an OC—but I don’t think you want to have an OC still getting his feet the next two years of all years. If we want to get to the playoffs you don’t want an OC learning on the job. That will have you outside again back in a Camping World style bowl.

    1. Bc, One of those stalls in the end-zone was caused by a classic “rookie” blunder…calling a “trick” play when and where no trick play was needed. It backfired, of course, and cost us not just the down, but the momentum of the whole drive. Other than that, Rees did pretty good.

      BGC ’77 ’82

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