By: Phil Houk of Fighting Irish Preview
One is a nicely equipped Honda Accord, the other a red hot 220 mph, Lamborghini. One is super reliable and adept at getting you from point “A” to point “B”, the other will get you there quicker and with a lot more thrills……. when there aren’t any engine problems.
That is where the Notre Dame Quarterback race seemed to stand at the conclusion of the 2017 season. Ian Book got the job done by rallying the Irish in the 2nd half to an exciting victory over LSU in the Citrus Bowl, while Brandon Wimbush was “in the shop” after a “breakdown”, which seemed to start in mid-November, and finally forced Brian Kelly to call a tow truck late in the second quarter against LSU.
The mission for the off-season: continue the development of Ian Book, and find a way to turn the hyper-talented Brandon Wimbush into a more consistent quarterback….. that can stay out of the shop when mechanical issues pile up.
Last Saturday during the Blue-Gold Spring game, both quarterbacks passed the eye test. In a pass happy game of two hand touch tackling on the QB, mechanics were on display and Brandon Wimbush hit on 19-33 for 2 TDs and 341 yards. Book was a solid 17-30 for 1 TD and 292 yards.
Post-game, Brian Kelly gave the “leader in the clubhouse” nod to Wimbush in the Quarterback race but admitted that his quarterbacks were, “1A and 1B”.
Last year Brandon Wimbush accounted for 30 touchdowns and was the primary driving force behind 8 of the Notre Dame wins, indcluding the season opener against Michigan (he missed the North Carolina game due to injury). He has a big upside and he is secure going into his senior year at 1A, and when he is in his zone he is an electrifying athlete.
Saturday Wimbush threaded the needle in traffic. Oh, and he completed some easy passes! None of his screen throws went to the ankles of his receivers. A maddening difficulty with making such “easy” throws last season, led as much as anything to his 49.5% completion rate.
Wimbush also looked comfortable in the pocket Saturday. But it is hard to say what exactly happens when the red jersey comes off and he has to make a real world decision to throw, or tuck and run.
One interesting comment by Brian Kelly post game was that he wanted to see Wimbush, “get his intensity up a little bit”. Kelly pointed at a trait that the media has observed, that Wimbush when interviewed is, “about as calm and cool as anybody”. In this area Kelly saw progress, “His intensity management was really good today, and that was big for me.”
Ian Book, who has 3 years of eligibility left, makes those easy throws, and while not a talent on display Saturday, he grasps the read option better than Wimbush. On the down side, apparently he has not been a stellar practice player and he has thrown 4 Interceptions in just 75 career attempts.
Saturday, Book stayed away from the interception and played confidently. Being a hero of the Citrus Bowl, no doubt has added to that confidence trait in a big way. Watching him play you sense that he is a winner, the question though would be, is he enough of a winner to get the Irish to the College Football Playoff promised land? That takes a special talent, a talent that perhaps between the two, only Brandon Wimbush possesses.
So now both quarterbacks go back to their off season regimen. Book confirmed post game to me that he plans to spend at least sometime this summer with his Quarterback “guru” going back a number of years, Will Hewlett. Hewlett has an amazing back story of his own and has trained more than 70 Division 1 quarterbacks in the past few years.
Wimbush also has a guru in former Syracuse QB Madei Williams who he has worked with frequently. But when asked after the game what was in his future, Wimbush said he intended to, “go hang out with Ian Book after this and spend some good time with him.”
Competitors on the football field, friends off it. A Honda Accord and a Lamborghini hanging together for a “good time”!
Combining the best of a Honda Accord with the best of a Lamborghini just might result in the ultimate automobile.
Combining the talents of Brandon Wimbush with those of Ian Book might result in an improved version of Cam Newton, or perhaps a Joe Montana that can run, really, really well. One thing is for certain, having a “1A” and “1B” that can both effectively lead the Irish this fall, means Brian Kelly, in the real world, has plenty of talent to work with at the most important position on the field.
Anyone know what kind of car BK drives……?