Everett: Both QBs are critical to team success, but Book a better fit
Joe Everett | Saturday, September 22, 2018
Man, Ian Book loves playing on the road in Carolina.
A year after the junior quarterback led Notre Dame to a 33-10 win over North Carolina last season, Book was named the starter Saturday over senior quarterback Brandon Wimbush and was again effective and efficient, throwing for 325 yards, rushing for 43 yards and accounting for five touchdowns during Notre Dame’s 56-27 win over Wake Forest.
Give credit to Irish head coach Brian Kelly for sensing that the team needed a spark. It’s a fairly gutsy call to switch quarterbacks before your fourth game when you’re already 3-0, but Kelly knew the offense wasn’t performing to its potential and made the switch. Maybe it was Book, maybe it was the Wake Forest defense, probably a combination of both, but the decision paid off.
Now, let’s get to the real discussion: Who should Notre Dame’s starting quarterback be going forward?
Well, if Notre Dame (4-0) wants to accomplish its goal of winning a national championship, it will need to both Ian Book and Brandon Wimbush to play well.
As for who should start at quarterback? Call me a PLS major, I’m joining the Book Club.
This is not to say one guy is objectively a better quarterback than the other. Right now, it’s purely a matter of fit. Ian Book is a better quarterback for offensive coordinator Chip Long’s offense than Brandon Wimbush is. Book is quick and accurate in short throws, he’s comfortable going under center, rolling out and throwing on the run, and he still maintains the status of a dual-threat quarterback because he can use his legs, especially near the goal line — as evidenced by his three rushing touchdowns against the Demon Deacons (2-2, 0-1 ACC). Long loves run/pass options, and Book executes them very well.
What we also saw from Notre Dame against Wake Forest is that the quarterback was able to get the ball to his weapons all around the field, and Notre Dame has a lot of weapons. Book went through his progressions and spread the ball to the running backs, the tight ends and the receivers, ultimately resulting in a balanced passing attack. It was a completely different offense out there, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that the skill position players saw a lot more opportunities to exercise their skill.
So yes, while I think Ian Book is a better fit for the type of offense Chip Long wants to run, Notre Dame will still need Brandon Wimbush to inevitably come up big in certain games and certain situations.
Look, Wake Forest had a bad defense. One could easily imagine Wimbush accounting for 400 yards of offense alone against that unit, so it’s still unclear as to how much impact Book had upon the rise in offensive success. The point is that Book is the type of no-nonsense quarterback who can come in and get the job done, no questions asked. He’s got a shorter ceiling but a higher floor than Wimbush, and against Wake Forest’s tempo offense, it made sense to go with a quarterback that can consistently string together first downs and long drives.
We might ask the question, however: How would Book have played against Michigan? Wimbush made some incredibly talented plays in that game — I recall him converting a third and 18 by scrambling for 20 yards — plays I’m not sure Book would have been able to make. It’s all hypothetical, but I believe the Irish will need Wimbush against especially athletic defenses that they’ll face in the future, which is to say that Kelly and his staff will have to judge on a game-by-game basis which quarterback puts them in the best situation to succeed. Or in certain situations, why not have Book at quarterback and give Wimbush — the best runner on the team — the chance to make plays in open space?
While this uncertainty may first appear to put the team in a precarious position, the best thing about the quarterback situation is that both Wimbush and Book are great teammates for one another, and care more about the team than their individual play — they want their offense to be elite and therefore seek to help each other improve.
“We break [our offense] down, the whole quarterback group,” Book said postgame. “We all want to make each other better.”
At the end of the day, Ian Book is thrilled the Irish are 4-0. Brandon Wimbush is thrilled the Irish are 4-0. Both will be critical pieces in Notre Dame’s run at the College Football Playoff the rest of the year, because let’s face it: Notre Dame actually looked like a top-10 team against the Demon Deacons. Notre Dame’s two toughest games the rest of the year are coming up next, but if the offense continues to execute like it did on Saturday, you can bet that the Irish will be in the playoff conversation by the end of the year.
In fact, you can book it.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.