• Class: Sophomore (Eligibility: 4)
• On The Depth Chart: A solid No. 2 behind starter Brandon Wimbush after spring practice. Book has yet to take an actual snap in a game, but his strong performance during the Blue-Gold Game was indicative of his spring practice at large, according to Brian Kelly. That’s good news for the offense.
• Post-Spring Status: Ascending
“Consistency, throws strikes, rarely misses an open receiver, can see the field very well. Runs the offense very well. We all came into the spring talking about Brandon Wimbush and rightly so. The starting quarterback at Notre Dame is a big topic. It's a big story. But the story beneath the story for me was: Who the heck is going to be the No. 2 quarterback? Because if you guys have followed us long enough, we've used our No. 2 here, quite a bit.
So having that No. 2, and seeing him perform the way he has this spring, for me, has been, you know, one of the big stories. And Ian has done this all spring. I think you could point to his performance (in the Blue-Gold Game) and say it was a surprise; it wasn't a surprise to me. He's shown that. I thought he would go out and play really well. I'm glad he did.” – Brian Kelly
Book gets actual work, but it’s in blowouts of Temple, Boston College, Miami of Ohio and maybe another surprise rout. Not only does Book get game experience, but Kelly actually lets him run the offense to build on his spring performance. There’s no sense in not learning a little more about Book this season if you’re the coaching staff. Playing him offers a better evaluation than the Blue-Gold Game. And if Book picks up where he left off in April, he should be more than good enough to keep Avery Davis on the red-shirt list all fall. There’s value in that too, both for Notre Dame and for Davis himself.
Have we mentioned that just twice in the past decade Kelly has had his opening day starting quarterback go the distance? Notre Dame needs Wimbush to be the exception to that rule, which has been a commentary on freak injuries, coaching indecision and just bad quarterback play. Wimbush will be good enough to avoid indecision or poor play, but there’s no telling on injuries. The worst-case isn’t that Book regresses or Davis jumps him during camp. It’s that Notre Dame actually has to start the sophomore this season because Wimbush went down. As good as Book looked during spring ball, it’s healthy for everyone that he remains a No. 2. Too much Book would be a bad thing, at least this season.
Coming out of high school the comparison was Tommy Rees, now Book’s quarterbacks coach. Both played with a high football IQ, although Book had a stronger arm and better mobility. Yet Rees started four games as a freshman, nixing this potential parallel. Now the Book comparison must be a red-shirt who’s unlikely to play until his senior year. That’s a difficult comparison because most players in that mold end up transferring. Evan Sharpley might be a decent comparison as he was stuck behind Brady Quinn (a la Wimbush) before having to compete against Jimmy Clausen (a la Phil Jurkovec). After taking a red-shirt, Sharpley played in just 19 career games, starting two. While those were both losses, he was a stabilizing force on the quarterback depth chart. Book might end up doing the same.
What The Future Holds
It’s impossible to say considering how past red-shirt quarterbacks have developed or departed at Notre Dame. For every DeShone Kizer, there’s a glut of Jared Clark, Evan Sharpley, Zach Frazer, Demetrius Jones, Dayne Crist, Andrew Hendrix, Luke Massa and Malik Zaire. There’s no question Book is good enough to play college football, maybe even at a Notre Dame starting quarterback level. What’s impossible to predict is how Davis and Jurkovec will compare next to him. What if Wimbush actually plays out his fifth-year in South Bend? That would give Book just a one season shot at starting. It might take a couple more years before being able to answer this one.