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Wimbush reflects on past season, looks ahead to second year as starting QB

| Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Perhaps the biggest question mark heading into this season for Notre Dame football is the quarterback play, and just how much Irish senior quarterback Brandon Wimbush will improve from last season. While the 6-foot-1, 222-pound Wimbush accounted for 1,870 yards passing, 804 rushing yards and 30 total touchdowns in his first season as a starter, his play became inconsistent and even erratic, especially in November.

At Wednesday’s media day, Wimbush addressed last year’s successes and struggles and his overall mindset heading into the 2018 campaign and his second season as starting quarterback.

Observer File Photo
Irish senior quarterback Brandon Wimbush runs with the ball during Notre Dame’s 21-17 win over LSU in the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1. Wimbush would later be replaced in the game by junior quarterback Ian Book.

“I feel real comfortable,” Wimbush said. “Obviously year two is a huge leap in terms of being confident out there and understanding the expectations from the coaching staff and the guys around you, so I feel really good being out there.”

While Wimbush accrued plenty of film for his highlight reel last season, both in passing and running the football, his performance often suffered in late-game situations and hostile environments — a trend the Irish coaching staff is looking to fix by putting all the quarterbacks into those simulated scenarios throughout practice.

“For the past three or four practices, we’ve repped different situations and they come up in every single game, and so being aware of every situation you’re in and what has to be done to put us in the best situation to succeed and to obviously win a game is huge, especially when it’s toward the end of the game,” Wimbush said. “I think the coaches have done a good job of putting us in those certain situations here in practice to where we can feel confident going into any game and any scenario that comes about.”

He also commented on how important that confidence is to the rest of the squad, as well of to his level of play.

“I think [confidence is] everything. It’s everything that a quarterback needs to go out and succeed and play to the level to which he’s expected to play at,” he said. “Confidence is the No. 1 factor for a quarterback. All the guys are looking at you, so if you’re out there and you’re hyped up and confident in what you’re about to go do and accomplish, then the rest of the guys will follow along.”

Perhaps part of the reason Wimbush’s confidence may have faltered throughout the season was the backlash he received from fans, especially on social media, for his game performance. Wimbush commented on how he handles all the outside noise that comes with being the quarterback at Notre Dame, as well as how making his circle smaller has helped him focus on the advice that will assist him this season.

“I’ve done a good job of getting off of social media, and I think that’s a huge part of it, just mentally understanding where you’re at and who you’re listening to, because you can have a lot of people coming at you with different perspectives, and I think that can hurt you, especially at the quarterback position,” he said. “You don’t want to take too much in and spread yourself too thin, so understanding whose points are valid and that are going to help you. … I think that’s all part of playing the quarterback position, and being smart about that is huge in terms of where I want to be. I saw the repercussions of it and I think I saw my improvements come when I started neglecting some of those opinions.”

Not only did outsiders put pressure on Wimbush last season, but he feels like he put too much on himself as well. Even though the offense loses former offensive linemen Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey, its leading rusher in Josh Adams and its leading receiver in Equanimeous St. Brown, Wimbush says he feels less pressure to produce this year than he did last year because of his increased trust in the 10 players around him.

Observer File Photo
Irish senior quaterback Brandon Wimbush lines up in the shotgun behind graduate student center Sam Mustipher during Notre Dame’s 38-20 loss to Stanford on Nov. 25 in Palo Alto, California.

“You’re playing the biggest position in the country, so it feels like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. You have to go perform to other people’s expectations, but I think I set the bar for myself the highest that anyone’s set it,” he said. “So when I underachieve I understand that and I know that and I take that upon myself to make those corrections. Obviously last year, being a first-year starter, you want to exceed your expectations and I think I did unfortunately put a little too much weight on my shoulders. In year two, I think some of that’s off — I’m trusting the other guys that are out there … and I’m excited for what these guys are going to do this year.

“ … I’ve taken a different perspective. Last year I felt like I had to do a lot — I feel like there were a lot of expectations for me as a first year starter — and now I understand that there are 10 other guys on the offense that are going to do a great job of getting their job done, and when all 11 guys in the offense are doing their job I think this can be a real electrifying offense. So I think understanding that and trusting my teammates … that takes a little less off my plate.”

The offense does indeed have the potential to be just as productive as last season’s, as Wimbush is surrounded with a rebuilt offensive line, dynamic skill position players and a deep tight end core. The senior quarterback noted just how special it is to be working and playing alongside such dedicated individuals, on and off the field.

“I come to this University and there’s guys that want to succeed and want to graduate and win championships — that’s the level of expectation that we come here with and that we have,” Wimbush said. “So when I get in that huddle, all the guys around me … want to be great, and it starts with the quarterback every day when we’re at practice to put these guys in the best position to make them great and lead the offense.

“ … Every year you re-stock, and this year the guys up front have done a great job of coming along throughout this fall camp, and we’re excited. The guys on the outside have been making plays, the running backs look great — sophomores Avery [Davis] and Jafar [Armstrong] are coming along really well transitioning to new positions — so I’m excited for what this offense has and for what’s to come September 1.”

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About Joe Everett

Joe is a senior PLS major and hails from the thriving metropolis of South Bend, IN. In addition to formerly serving as Sports Editor at The Observer, Joe is a RA in Stanford Hall and a past champion of the Observer's Fantasy Football league.

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