Who will it be? Breaking down Notre Dame's QB battle
The start of fall camps is right around the corner, and at several major programs the focus will be on the quarterback position as former elite recruits battle it out for the starting job. In weeks leading up to the start of camp, we will take a look at some of the most high-profile battles and have National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell weigh in on how he sees things shaking out and why, while also getting an opinion from one of our experts on the ground.
Today we look at the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Notre Dame is coming off a 10-win season, including a bowl victory, and returns its top two quarterbacks. But that doesn’t mean head coach Brian Kelly is just going to hand off the job to last year’s season-opening starter, Brandon Wimbush. Kelly has said many times this offseason that the quarterback position needs more consistency in 2018 in order for the Irish to be in the mix for a spot in the College Football Playoff. A battle for the starting job has been underway since the spring and should be settled by the time fall camp ends.
As a recruit: Wimbush’s recruitment turned out to have a major impact on the current college football landscape, especially considering the "what if?" possibilities. He originally pledged to Penn State and seemed destined to end up in Happy Valley, at least until Notre Dame lost quarterback commit Blake Barnett and turned up the heat on Wimbush. Wimbush ended up committing to the Irish in October of 2014 and enrolled early with the school in January of 2015.
In college: Wimbush saw limited action as a freshman in 2015 and didn’t appear in a game in 2016. But last year he grabbed the job and showed some pretty impressive flashes, throwing for 1,870 yards and 16 touchdowns while also rushing for 803 yards and a team-leading 14 scores. Wimbush was very dangerous as a runner, but his inconsistency as a passer is exactly what Kelly was talking about when he opened up the quarterback competition this offseason.
As a recruit: Book initially committed to Washington State, only to have Notre Dame come along later in the process and put on the full-court press. After visiting the campus in the summer prior to his senior season, he flipped to the Irish.
In college: Book redshirted his first year on campus in 2016 and served as a backup to Wimbush for most of 2017. But the main reason he is in the discussion to potentially win the job this year is because of his showing in Notre Dame’s bowl game. In that contest, he led the Irish to victory, going 14-of-19 for 164 yards and two touchdowns and making some of the throws that Wimbush missed at times during the season. He finished the year 46-of-75 for 456 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions.
THE LONG SHOTS
In college: Davis redshirted last season and is in line to be the third-string quarterback this season, although some have speculated he might see the field at other positions as well.
As a recruit: Jurkovec had a number of major offers, but he committed to the Irish more than 18 months before officially signing with the school.
In college: Jurkovec enrolled early at Notre Dame earlier this year, but he appears poised to be a redshirt in 2018.
"What Ian Book did in the fourth quarter against LSU was brilliant, but the reality is this is Brandon Wimbush’s job. Wimbush struggled late, but he also had some brilliant moments during the season while setting a school record with 14 rushing touchdowns. He accounted for 30 total touchdowns in his first season as a starter, and a strong spring has the former Rivals100 signal caller in position for a breakout season.” – Bryan Driskell, BlueandGold.com
You have to go with Brandon Wimbush here, because he can do more things in the offense. I liked what I saw from Ian Book last year, but Wimbush is a terrific runner, can keep defenses off balance and you have to assume he’s improved his downfield passing ability and overall accuracy. He fits into what Notre Dame wants from its quarterback a little bit more, so I see him winning the job and getting the benefit of the doubt if it’s close.