Sherman Alston showed up for another winter workout back home in New Jersey to talk X’s and O’s. The 5-foot-6, 175-pound receiver had transferred to Stony Brook from Boston College a year earlier and wanted to make sure his last season of college football would be his best.
Brandon Wimbush listened. Then he started talking about how Notre Dame used undersized receivers and the route concepts that could turn them loose. Alston’s eyes glazed over.
“He went into this QB concept and I’m like, ‘ I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about right now, bro.’” Alston laughed. “He’s really smart.”
Alston is part of a small pack to work with Wimbush under the guidance of trainer and quarterbacks coach Madei Williams at the Mad-QB Quarterback Academy. Wimbush started drilling with Williams as an eighth grader and makes a point to get with him during breaks from Notre Dame.
That meant Wimbush’s final days before returning to South Bend in January were spent working with Williams and throwing to Alston. Colorado receiver Juwann Winfree and Boston College quarterback Anthony Brown joined.
Considering what Wimbush was about to walk into back in South Bend, going from third-string to first, those final days back home should have revealed a different personality. They didn’t.
“He don’t even let that affect him,” Alston said. “You really have to ask Brandon to get him to talk about it. I’m like, ‘That QB is leaving, you’re the guy now, right?’ He just talks about competing for a job. You’d never know he’s the starter. But he knows.”
Still, it’s hard to tell Wimbush may be going from red shirt to magazine cover.
“He’s in such a good space right now mentally, emotionally and physically,” Williams said. “A lot of what we were trying to do with him was just making sure from a physical standpoint that everything is right where it needs to be.”
Before returning to Notre Dame, Wimbush drilled with Williams two or three times per week. The goal was to clean up fundamentals so Wimbush could focus on learning Chip Long’s additions to Brian Kelly’s playbook.
With a release point built from baseball, Wimbush’s throwing motion has always been easy from Williams’ perspective. It’s the other stuff where he needed to catch up.
“Being calm under chaos,” Williams said. “That’s where I want him to be smooth and polished. Look at Aaron Rodgers. He’s so calm in chaotic situations because he maintains his base, stays poised, even with live bullets flying. He can get the ball out at all different angles and the thing goes exactly where he wants it to go.”
Williams concedes the obvious, that Wimbush lacks the game experience to really know how this fall will go. A trip to Notre Dame for the spring game two years ago reinforces that unpredictability factor.
Williams and Wimbush attended that Blue-Gold Game to watch a two-man competition between Everett Golson and Malik Zaire. Third-stringer DeShone Kizer looked awful in mop-up duty. When Golson transferred a month later, Wimbush figured he could beat out Kizer for the back-up job.
“Nothing really ever goes according to plan. It’s a matter of being able to adapt to whatever situation you bring yourself in to,” Williams said. “I think he’s been able to display a tremendous amount of patience these last two years.”
Wimbush ultimately did win the No. 2 job as a freshman, but only after Zaire went down with a broken ankle. Then he watched Kizer play himself into a potential first-round pick and early NFL departure.
While biding his time Wimbush did a summer internship at KPMG and is already looking at one in venture capital down the road. As much as Wimbush watched how Zaire and Kizer led, he also took notes on how executives did the same in the real world.
“He carries himself like a CEO,” Williams said. “That’s how he’s preparing himself for the future. He already has that presence. Speak to anybody consistently around him and they’ll tell you he has that ‘it’ factor.”
Alston can back that up. For the receiver, getting to know Wimbush goes beyond catching passes from a quarterback who can deliver a 60-yard fade without a warm-up.
“He’s about all the right stuff,” Alston said. “He’s a very good kid. He’s a hard worker. I think he’s gonna be perfect for (Notre Dame).”