It is the most popular position in sports. Frankly, its return on investment might be the highest, too. As Notre Dame’s backup quarterback in 2017, rising sophomore Ian Book may often hear hypotheticals singing his praises. If junior Brandon Wimbush stays healthy, though, Book’s merits will remain largely unknowns for anyone not privy to Irish practices.
Nonetheless, Book feels he could start. Following his performance in the Blue-Gold Game (18-of-25 passing for 271 yards and a touchdown), such confidence could be considered understandable.
“Obviously I think I can be the starter,” Book said that day. “Brandon’s a great player. Today he did really well. If something were to happen and it’s the next man in, I would be able to do a good job.”
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By no means does Irish coach Brian Kelly hope to prove Book can do that good job in 2017. Wimbush is slated to be the starter and there will be no quarterback controversy this summer. But having confidence in his backup will save Kelly much fret this summer.
“Having that No. 2, and seeing him perform the way he has this spring, for me, has been one of the big stories,” Kelly said. “Ian has done this all spring.”
Book needs to keep doing it, and he knows as much. Notre Dame quarterbacks coach Tom Rees praised Book’s progress this spring before quickly pointing to an area of needed improvement. Naturally, it’s an area most college quarterbacks need to improve on. Just this spring it has been a topic of conversation regarding both Wimbush and last year’s Irish starter, DeShone Kizer. Footwork.
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“I do like to get outside the pocket and use my feet, but obviously I still have a lot of work to do,” Book said. “There are times where I miss the throws because my feet aren’t set, but you have to keep working to get through those.”
Some of that messy footwork could be attributable to the change in offensive systems following the disappointing 4-8 finish last year. Going from scout team to new offensive coordinator Chip Long’s up-tempo approach has forced Book to learn a lot quickly. Then again, he had to do that throughout last summer and fall, coming from high school to a college program.
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Back then, though, he had three quarterbacks ahead of him on the depth chart. He leaned on them for guidance of all varieties.
“I learned a ton from how to be the best person as well as a team, and I learned obviously a bunch of football things on the field,” Book said. “DeShone, [former Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire] and Brandon, they all helped me when I first got here. They took me under their wings, teaching me the footwork stuff, all the plays, all the reads.
“It was definitely a good quarterback room to be in as a freshman.”
Jumping from scout team quarterback to one play away from taking the snap for Notre Dame, Book will be a key part of keeping that a good quarterback room moving forward.
As evidence of the ROI claim made up top, take a look at Doug Pederson. In 100 career NFL games, he threw a total of 522 passes. In seven seasons with the Green Bay Packers, Pederson threw 77 passes in 66 games while also winning a Super Bowl ring.
Thanks largely to those two stints in Green Bay, Pederson is now the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles with a five-year contract of who knows how many millions per year. (If Jay Gruden gets $4 million/year and Marvin Lewis earns $4.5 million each season, Pederson’s total contract cannot fall far short of $20 million. It pays to have studied Brett Favre.)
Maybe it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if Kizer spent some time as the Cleveland Browns backup…