Not to jinx a summer’s calm, but it has been surprising how little this offseason’s idle chatter has debated Notre Dame’s starting quarterback. While Brandon Wimbush accounted for 30 touchdowns and more than 2,700 yards last season, he and the Irish offense very much stalled in three losses to top-20 opponents.
Thus, the cynical expected more time spent gnashing teeth over questions such as:
What are your thoughts on Wimbush’s play last season? Do you think he will make the necessary improvements in year two to get the Irish into the College Football Playoff? — Daniel F.
The thoughts are much simpler than many may expect. Wimbush was a first-year starter and still avoided horrendous mistakes much of the season. Throwing only six interceptions in 12 starts remains a surprise of the highest order. Consider his predecessors at the position: DeShone Kizer threw 10 interceptions his first season as a starter, followed by nine more in 2016. Everett Golson lost 14 passes his final year at Notre Dame, although he matched Wimbush’s six in the 2012 charge to the championship game. Even Tommy Rees turned over the ball at a bothersome rate in his 4-0 record as a freshman starter, throwing eight interceptions on only 164 pass attempts in 2010.
Despite his flaws, and there are flaws, Wimbush’s ball security needs to be recognized and praised. It is why his collapses at Miami and Stanford, with two interceptions against each, stand out. However, there were nine other regular season contests in which he displayed a greater understanding of the task at hand than he is given credit for.
BW will amaze occasionally with his legs and arm strength, but he’s overall a mediocre QB at best, especially on the road and against good teams. — nudeman
This ignores his most-efficient game of the year, throwing for 173 yards and a touchdown on 14-of-20 passing at Michigan State, adding eight rushes for 52 more yards and another score. That was on the road against a team which finished the season in the top 15. Similarly, Wimbush produced four touchdowns against USC, again a top-15 team.
Notre Dame boasted four victories over ranked opponents according to last season’s final rankings. A first-year starter led the way to three of those wins, and though history will not remember this, the Irish were not losing to LSU when Ian Book replaced Wimbush on New Year’s Day. The Citrus Bowl was a scoreless tie at that point.
Book may be called upon again in 2018. If Wimbush struggles against Michigan’s defense in 40 days, spot relief could be a needed change of pace. Then again, the Wolverines have one of the country’s best defenses; sputtering in that moment will not end Wimbush’s days as Notre Dame’s starter.
Keep that in mind as the season (finally) approaches. Don’t forget it during a panicked haze in the early hours of Sept. 2. Consider this a preemptive strike against those overreactions.
INSIDE THE IRISH READING
— What if Twitter had commented on Notre Dame football in ’07, ’06, ’05? … December of 2001?
— No. 11 Alohi Gilman, safety, Navy transfer
— No. 10 Tariq Bracy, cornerback, incoming freshman
— No. 10 Chris Finke, receiver, punt returner
— No. 9 Daelin Hayes, defensive end
— No. 8 Jafar Armstrong, running back/receiver
— No. 8 Donte Vaughn, cornerback
— No. 7 Brandon Wimbush, quarterback, second-year starter