In the spring, folks. Should he throw more picks in the spring? It appears that he’s thinking about it.
Following Notre Dame’s opening practice of spring ball, Book spoke to the media and his aggressiveness came up. In response to a question from The Athletic’s Pete Sampson, Book said, “I want to test myself. I want to make those even harder throws in those smaller windows. That’s what it takes to be an elite offense and an elite quarterback. I’m not gonna go too crazy where I’m creating bad habits, I want to push the offense, push the guys, especially the receivers, show them that I can make some of those throws.”
As a general rule in sports, an aggressive player is a winning player. Thinking and caution breeds indecision, which leads to the very mistakes you’re trying to avoid. So, Book forcing himself to make some tougher throws, or throws he wouldn’t normally make in a game, could be a good thing. We don’t know our limits until we test them.
There is a downside, as Book mentions in the quote, of creating bad habits with the ball and with his decisions. There is a line that needs to be walked. And while, this is a good thing generally, is it the right mindset for Book?
Why Taking More Chances In The Spring Is A Good Thing
Book talked about taking the offense to the next level, and presumably he meant be more of a downfield passing team. Last season Notre Dame ranked 37th in explosiveness according to S&P+, largely due to Dexter Williams and the running game ripping off huge plays. Notre Dame was 84th nationally in passing plays of 40 or more with just 7, a couple of those coming with Brandon Wimbush at quarterback, and their longest passing play was a screen to Michael Young. Notre Dame needs to get more going vertically, especially with Williams moving on the NFL and no obvious big play threat in the backfield.
The conventional wisdom following the season was Notre Dame simply didn’t have the athletes to push the ball down the field the way other teams did, but that argument has been upended by Miles Boykin testing like some kind of cyborg at the combine over the weekend. A 6-3 receiver with a 43 inch vertical who runs a 4.42 forty should be making some plays behind the defense.
So yeah, air it out Ian Book. Obviously, there are chances to take that need to be taken and you can’t get good at something unless you practice it, and if you throw a pick in practice against your teammates, so what? Book completed 68% of his passes last season, that accuracy isn’t going away. He should trust he’s got that ability on the tougher throws as well as the easier ones.
Why Taking More Chances Is A Bad Thing
Was the problem with Book as a quarterback that he didn’t take enough chances or that he wasn’t sure where the ball needed to be going, especially when he was under pressure. We saw Book take chances from a clean pocket. Not so much when people were in his face, and I’m not sure I want him thinking big play as opposed to getting the ball to the right person in those situations.
In fairness to Book, he did mention getting the ball out and on time to the right receiver early in his press conference when asked generally what he wanted to improve on from last season. If that is his mindset, it is probably the right one. Knowing where to go with the ball is the most important part of being quarterback, just in front of accuracy. And Book has the accuracy down, but his recognition needs work. That’s what should be his focus. Being confident in his reads will breed confidence in his game which allows you to make the throws he needs to make in key moments.
Is it more likely he missed a throw to Boykin in the Cotton Bowl because he was tentative or because he wasn’t sure that’s where the ball should go? Did he not makes throws because he couldn’t or he didn’t know who’d be open? Book has been lauded for his confidence and cool head under pressure from the moment he stepped onto the field against Wake. It’s more likely to me his issue is confusion and less not trusting his arm to make a key pass. Fixing the mental part will fix the physical part.