Notre Dame will officially have the luxury of a third-year starting quarterback in 2020, with Ian Book announcing his intention to return for a fifth season late Sunday evening.
Of the 33 Irish wins in the last three seasons, Book has started 20 of them, putting together a 20-3 record. At the end of the 2019 regular season, there was some idle speculation Book might seek to finish his collegiate career elsewhere with a graduate transfer after an up-and-down senior season. His social media posts Sunday silenced that wondering.
That speculation was at least somewhat built on the thought that Book and since-fired offensive coordinator Chip Long did not get along well. When Irish head coach Brian Kelly announced Long’s firing, he dismissed the perception that player discord had led to Long’s ouster.
“I think any head coach has to have the pulse of his team,” Kelly said earlier in December. “But if you’re asking did I have interviews with my team to make a decision, absolutely not. But I think any head coach that does not have the pulse of his football team is not going to be a head coach very long.”
With Long calling plays through the regular season, and then quarterbacks coach Tommy Rees leading the way in the 33-9 Camping World Bowl victory, Book finished the year with 3,034 passing yards and 34 touchdowns with a 60.2 completion percentage, while throwing only six interceptions. He closed the season particularly strong after a dismal performance at Michigan, throwing for 257 yards per game across the final six contests with 19 touchdowns and a 61.1 percent completion rate.
Though a few remaining bowl games might change this slightly, Book currently ranks No. 28 in the country in passing efficiency, No. 29 in passing yards and No. 6 in passing touchdowns.
Those numbers set up Book to imprint his name across the Notre Dame record book a multitude of times, in part because he is a rare three-year 21st-century Irish starter. Using the basic barometer of a season’s leader in passing yards, only Jimmy Clausen and Brady Quinn have led Notre Dame for three seasons in the last 20 years.
With 20 wins to his name to date, even a frustrating 2020 should put Book atop the listing of wins as the Irish starting quarterback, currently headed at 29 by Tom Clements (1972-74), Ron Powlus (1994-97) and Quinn (2003-06). The other records Book may approach with a full 2020 in hand …
Career passing yards: Book currently has 6,118. The record is Quinns 11,762, but Book should easily reach Clausen’s 8,148, good for second place.
Touchdown passes: Book currently has 57, putting Quinn’s record of 95 in ambitious reach.
Completion percentage: Book currently holds the record at 63.5 percent, needing to stay above Clausen’s 62.6 percent.
Winning percentage as starting QB: Book is currently at 86.96 percent, but if Notre Dame won a national championship at 14-0, he would jump to second in the record books. A 12-1 season, more plausibly, would put Book third in Irish history, behind John Lujack (1946-47) and Tony Rice (1987-89).
Speaking of a national championship may be bold, but Book has already led Notre Dame to one Playoff and another 11-win season, and these are the heights of discussion brought by a third-year starter in college football.