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Geyer: Book hasn’t improved since 2018

| Thursday, October 24, 2019

Great players are born in the offseason.

By the time the fall rolls around, the window for the creation of the next season’s superstars has closed. I’d argue that it’s even too late by the time summer camp starts. Athletes define who they’ll be in the coming year between the months of February and May — and there’s no way around it.

Plenty of Notre Dame players took their four or five months off to reach even greater heights. But unfortunately for the Irish, Ian Book did not.

Anna Mason | The Observer
Irish senior quarterback Ian Book scans the defense before the snap during Notre Dame’s 35-20 win over Virginia on Sept. 28 at home.

Let me preface this by saying Book is an incredible athlete, without whom Notre Dame could not have made the playoffs. As great as his field sense is, his arm’s even better and his poise and patience during the 2018 season transformed the offense as we knew it.

But all that said, in 2019, he’s not better.

He’s not necessarily worse (although he’s made a few throws that have made me question that), but he’s certainly not better.

Consider everything Book had going for him at the conclusion of the 2018 season: He led his team to the first CFP in program history. He had a 68.2% completion rate. He won the starting job from Brandon Wimbush.

Then he got spanked in the Cotton Bowl.

Coming into this season, Book should have been hungrier than ever. Secure in his place as a starter and the first quarterback to be named captain in 10 years (the last being Jimmy Clausen in 2009), Book should have been ready to bring even more to the table, both on and off the field. He should have had a bad taste in his mouth all summer. He should have been completely and unwaveringly locked in.

But frankly, the Book we see this year is no different than the one we saw last. And that’s a damn shame.

Book is an elite athlete, but he had all the pieces to become a historic one. Over the summer, he attended the Manning Passing Academy and had the full attention of his coaches, teammates and trainers. It was all a matter of what he chose to do with those opportunities, and in my not-so-humble-opinion, he didn’t do enough.

Look at the stats. This year, Book’s completion rate is floating around 63%. He’s had last year’s laser-like arm a few times, throwing 80% against Bowling Green and 68% against Virginia. But he threw just 53% against USC, a team he should have been eager to destroy as a California native himself.

Last year, Book received pretty heavy criticism regarding his quick scramble and his inability to see receivers beyond those for whom plays were designed. This year, those same issues are still apparent, and perhaps they’re even worse.

Despite having ample time to correct his flaws throughout the spring, Book didn’t do it.

One factor I keep coming back to is the fact that there is no quarterback controversy this year. Having the constant battle at practice and on the field, day-in and day-out, certainly never hurts competitive intensity. Having to prove yourself time and time again, knowing that any number of mistakes could land you on the bench, certainly humbles egos. Without that type of pressure this season, Book has an uncommon amount of leeway; Brian Kelly’s not going to make one of his senior captains QB2.

Book has certainly had his fair share of brilliance this year — 14 TDs to two picks is an unbelievable ratio. He is still an irrefutably talented player. He’s just not an extraordinary one.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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