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Brandon Wimbush looks to put development on display against USC

| Friday, October 20, 2017

Patience is a virtue, and it’s one Irish junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush knows well.

Having sat on the bench behind DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire and not seen the field for the better part of two seasons, Wimbush was finally handed the keys to the kingdom of the Irish offense in the spring.

And that only made having to sit out his team’s last win over North Carolina with a right foot injury all the more difficult.

“It’s a little weird, but I’ve done it for two years,” Wimbush said Wednesday. “It’s not something that you want to do after starting five consecutive games. … I would’ve been able to get out there mentally and operate the offense. How effectively we don’t know, obviously, but if it came down to it, I think I would’ve been able to go out there and execute.”

Irish junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush looks to make a pass during Notre Dame's 38-18 victory over Michigan State on Sept. 23Rosie LoVoi | The Observer
Irish junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush looks to make a pass during Notre Dame’s 38-18 victory over Michigan State on Sept. 23

And with sophomore Ian Book under center against the Tar Heels, Wimbush was forced to watch the game from the sidelines. Irish head coach Brian Kelly said not playing Oct. 7 affected Wimbush that day, as Kelly thought he was less focused on learning from the game and more focused on playing it due to his youth as a starting quarterback.

“I know he wanted to try to play the game. His focus was much more about trying to play the game than learning from what transpired in the game,” Kelly said of Wimbush on Tuesday. “I think if maybe he’s a little further along in his process, that maybe he picks up more from the game.

“I think there was too much angst and anxiety of wanting to play and trying to get in the game and him feeling like he was out of place on the sideline. I don’t know that he was totally in the right place in terms of mentally trying to learn things and see things as they unfold.”

But the one thing that frustration did force Wimbush to do was refocus himself during last two weeks so as not to let his absence have a negative carryover effect.

“It was a little bit frustrating because I wasn’t able to be out there and help the guys win the game and keep that camaraderie going that we had built, so it was important for me to get back out there last week and show the guys why I am the quarterback,” Wimbush said.

And many of his teammates have seen just that over the last two weeks since Wimbush returned at full strength.

“He looks great. He looks like Brandon,” Irish captain and graduate student offensive lineman Mike McGlinchey said Wednesday. “You can’t really say much other than that. He’s going to do great things for us.

“ … Brandon’s kind of been our life and soul of this football team so far, especially on offense. Everything that we do goes through him, and he’s a great leader, great person and great teammate. It means everything to have him on the field with us.”

The three weeks since his last start has also allowed Wimbush to continue his development as a passer, particularly given Saturday’s game will be just his sixth start at quarterback for Irish.

“It’s been three weeks man, and I obviously haven’t played a game, and I’m excited to get back out there with my guys,” Wimbush said. “But just having three weeks to watch more film, to work on technique, to work with the timing of the receivers and just get back into a groove I think has been huge.”

Irish junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush rolls out of the pocket during Notre Dame's 52-17 victory over Miami (OH) on Sept. 30 at Notre Dame Stadium.Emma Farnan | The Observer
Irish junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush rolls out of the pocket during Notre Dame’s 52-17 victory over Miami (OH) on Sept. 30 at Notre Dame Stadium.

But that maturation process has continued since the spring, as Wimbush has felt the game slow down for himself with each additional week he has been under center for Notre Dame.

“I think the game has slowed down immensely for myself and for the rest of the offense,” Wimbush said. “We’re at a point where we’re going to start clicking on a new level, and I’m excited to see what that looks like this weekend. Recognizing the defense is something I had to improve on, and I think I did.”

With that development has come on-field production, which may not show up in the modest statistics Wimbush has put up through the air, but have impressed the coaching staff nonetheless.

“But I think as we got a chance to kind of sit back a little bit and do a little bit more of the analytics and dive deeper in what he’s done, it doesn’t jump out at you on film,” Kelly said. “But his production numbers are really, really interesting in terms of big plays with his feet and big chunk throws, conversions on third and fourth down situations.”

And the junior quarterback said he believes much of that maturation is the direct result of his increased understanding of the role of preparation, which bolsters both his confidence and ability to execute.

“[The biggest things I’ve learned are] the speed of the game and where I have to be in my preparation in knowing a scheme of a defense, and how my preparation can obviously lead to better execution,” Wimbush said. “I think that’s huge because I had two weeks to prepare for USC, and I just feel way more confident going into this weekend.”

As he continues to grow as a passer, Wimbush said he expects the offense to reach new levels. And he plans to put that on display starting this weekend against the Trojans.

“We’re excited for USC to come into town, and I’m excited to get back out there and put on a show,” Wimbush said.

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About Benjamin Padanilam

Ben is a senior and The Observer’s former Editor-in-Chief, now serving as its interim Sports Editor. He is in the Program of Liberal Studies (PLS) and also pursuing minors in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) and Business Economics. He hails from Toledo, Ohio, and has enjoyed the few highs and many lows of being a Cleveland sports fan.

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