It was a question popular in comments all spring and summer. It receded a bit during the season’s first three weeks, but it remained a common refrain for those figurative broken records. When Notre Dame turned to junior Ian Book as its starting quarterback Saturday to much success, the skipping needles found renewed volume.
“Why not put Brandon Wimbush in an Avery Davis-like role, since he is the best RB on the team?”
There are a number of reasons, and all of them are only disputed by the short-sighted. The biggest reason ties to the sophomore Davis being at the running back role, a move the Irish committed to in the spring to the extent that he has not take a practice snap at quarterback since April, at the latest. Thus, Wimbush is now Notre Dame’s backup and somewhat only reserve quarterback, always just a play away from returning to taking every competitive snap.
That answer leads to an argument for freshman Phil Jurkovec to take over those backup duties. Dealing in facts: Jurkovec has spent the last month working with the Irish scout team. As of last week, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly did not think Jurkovec could enter a game and run the whole playbook. Eligibility concerns aside, that is the reason to not move Jurkovec up to the second-string.
Moving Wimbush to running back would expose him to injury, not a risk to take with your backup quarterback, and it would reduce his practice reps at quarterback, again not something to do with your backup quarterback.
Furthermore, the Irish are likely to need Wimbush at quarterback yet again this season. His physical gifts will probably be an appropriate weapon to use against a defense at some point. Wimbush’s greatest asset is not his legs. Rather, it is his legs as a quarterback. His ability to ponder a pass and then expose an over-pursuing defensive end by taking off through the created gap is what led Notre Dame to its season-opening victory against Michigan.
A strong defensive secondary down the line could force Kelly to return to that simplified offense before the season’s end, and he knows as much.
“Brandon knows he’s going to contribute,” Kelly said Sunday. “I think he’s got the right makeup that he’ll be engaged and prepared each and every week, so I’m not really concerned about that.
“We will see how each week goes. It’s a very fluid situation from week-to-week and we’ll make sure that he’s prepared to play, just as we did the same thing with Ian.”
It’s that simple. Really.
Admittedly, the scratched record reached these ears only because a long-time bad influence texted the inquiry amidst an at-length conversation Saturday evening. About 12 hours later, a separate text conversation included a question with such a simple answer, there is no reason not to spend 20 seconds on it now.
“How many years of eligibility does Book have? The casual fan does not know this.”
An academic junior, Ian Book has eligibility through the 2020 season. Wimbush, an academic senior, has eligibility through the 2019 season. Jurkovec, so long as he does not play in more than four games this season, will have his four-year clock begin in September 2019, lasting through the 2022 season if so desired.
Enough with quarterbacks, but not with the commenters’ greatest hits: Will senior running back Dexter Williams return this week? Yes, in so much that a player who has not practiced much with the first-team can return to that unit in one week’s time.
“Dexter’s been doing well,” Kelly said. “If he continues to have the kind of week that he’s had the last few weeks, I would expect that he would be able to do something for us this week.”
That is Kelly’s way of unofficially announcing the end of an unofficial suspension. Similar circumstances kept receiver Kevin Stepherson sidelined for 2017’s first four games. It then took Stepherson two more weeks to tangibly contribute on the field.
Considering Williams has never had more than eight rushing attempts in a game, it may take a couple weeks for him to break through, as well.
Will senior Trevor Ruhland again replace junior Tommy Kraemer at right guard?
Ruhland’s start was not a move made out of performance concerns. Kraemer stepped on a defender’s foot in Wednesday’s practice and turned his ankle, per Kelly.
“Trevor was getting some reps at that position anyway and didn’t feel like Tommy was at 100 percent going into the game,” Kelly said.
Ruhland did play well, though. The Demon Deacons’ defensive line fit his skill set.
“Wake Forest is not typically one of your bigger fronts, so he fit very well against Wake Forest,” Kelly said. “… We were pulling the guard into an open alley. That was a good opportunity to get a guy out in space, and he moves a little bit better obviously than Tommy does.
“Tommy is really good if you’ve got a big defensive line where it requires you to move some guys.”
Kelly described it as a “game-to-game situation.” Going against a Stanford line that has helped hold opponents to 123 rushing yards per game and 3.42 yards per carry, Kraemer’s physicality may be needed.
Cole Kmet is healthy, fully recovered from a high ankle sprain. Kelly did not equivocate on that update regarding the sophomore tight end who could quickly become one of Book’s preferred targets.
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