Wimbush ready for opportunity to lead Irish
Tobias Hoonhout | Friday, April 21, 2017
There has never been a doubt about Brandon Wimbush’s ability.
The Under Armour All-American, Elite 11 participant and New Jersey Gatorade Player of the year arrived on campus in the fall of 2015 with exceptional credentials, but found himself ushered into a waiting game as first Malik Zaire and later DeShone Kizer handled the reigns for the Irish. He appeared against UMass and Pitt as a freshman: appearances highlighted by a 58-yard touchdown against the Minutemen. But last year, Irish head coach Brian Kelly elected to redshirt the sophomore, and Wimbush found himself watching from the sidelines as Notre Dame sputtered to a 4-8 season, the worst during Kelly’s seven-year stint.
Now, with Zaire transferring and Kizer off to the NFL, Wimbush’s brief cameo is set to become the main act. And with all the hype surrounding Wimbush, he himself is perhaps more excited than his fans to show what he has to offer.
“I knew that my time would come, and I just had to be patient,” Wimbush said on his journey to the starting role. “I had a bunch of people to lean on, and it ranges pretty widely. I understand and I know where I’m at, I know what university I’m at and I understand the benefits that come with it.
“Sometimes you have to go through some struggles to be where you want to be at the end of the day … It’s been two and a half years since I’ve been the guy and been out there on the field, and I couldn’t be more excited about this opportunity coming up.”
With Wimbush’s time in the wings set to end, there surfaces the ever-present challenge for new quarterbacks — the learning curve. Add into the equation the fact that the Irish are welcoming both a new offensive coordinator in Chip Long and a new quarterbacks coach in Tom Rees, and the potential for struggles are clear. But despite the tall order, Wimbush is confident in both his own ability and that of the coaching staff.
“I feel like my tempo in high school was very similar,” Wimbush said on his comfort level with Long’s new, fast-paced offensive scheme. “ … I feel like my transition has been just going back in memory and recalling some of the things I did in high school, so I feel like I’ve done that successfully so far.”
And as an impressive athlete who fits the mold of past dual-threat Irish quarterbacks under Kelly, Wimbush is excited about the explosive potential of the new offense and the options it gives him.
“[I am most confident in] my ability to make plays when things break down in the pocket,” Wimbush said on his ability to use his legs. “ … I wouldn’t attribute it to myself, but to the coaching staff and the guys who have built my footwork and my knowledge of the game and being able to understand where my escape lanes are, and when I’m supposed to get outside the pocket.
“ … Teams aren’t going to be able to load the box, because we have so many weapons outside, and then we have the four up front returning, I feel like we’re just going to be able to run the ball against any defense and any front we see.”
The junior quarterback is also relishing the chance to work with an Irish quarterback alum in Rees, who knows what it takes to be a successful starter for Notre Dame.
“I love him,” Wimbush said on Rees. “I’m in the meeting room with him at least twice a day, so between eight and 12 times a week; I get to spend a lot of time with him. He’s 24-years-old, so he’s fresh out himself and obviously he knows Coach Kelly’s offense and we get along pretty well. He’ll bring up clips of himself in big-time games, there’s a lot of clutch moments he remembers from his time and I love to see that.”
On the flip side, the coaching staff is just as excited about working with such a talented and willing individual.
“He’s a willing learner,” Long said on Wimbush. “He’s very coachable and he does a great job of applying what we go over in the meeting room, cleaning up his mistakes and using his athleticism to help him out. “
Rees echoed the same sentiments.
“He’s an awesome kid, and that’s the first thing that you want,” he said. “Someone who wants to learn, wants to be there and wants to get better and the guys respect him and really he has a good presence to him. And when you get to the physical attributes, there really isn’t a throw he can’t make, when his feet are set and he’s showing that there’s really not a whole lot he can’t do. And then his athletic ability, extending plays and being on the move is great.”
But with all Notre Dame starting quarterbacks, there comes the immense pressure of performing at a standard that matches the program’s pedigree. For Wimbush, the last two years have been essential in preparing for his future role, as well as allowing him to learn from the past two starters, Kizer in particular.
“If you prepare yourself then you don’t have to get prepared,” Wimbush said on his mentality. “I feel like I did that for the last two years and was able to take away things from DeShone and Malik; obviously DeShone was thrust into a position where he had to be prepared and he was and he did it successfully so I learned a lot from him in that scenario there.”
Wimbush said he has relished his relationship with Kizer, and appreciates all the words of wisdom he has gotten from the potential first-round pick.
“I speak to him pretty often, so we have a good relationship,” Wimbush said. “He talks to me a lot on what he’s gone through here and what the NFL process is for him now. He has great pointers for me every day, and whenever he has time to speak to me about anything, he lets me know the real stuff.”
And for Wimbush, the “real stuff” is around the corner. But you don’t have to tell him twice — he is ready for his turn.