As the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (12-0, Ind.) prepare for Saturday’s Cotton Bowl as part of the College Football Playoff semifinals, one Irish player is making slight headlines off the field. Earlier this week reports surfaced that senior quarterback Brandon Wimbush, who has one year of NCAA eligibility remaining after redshirting as a freshman, is seeking to transfer to another school at season’s end. Wimbush has started under center for Brian Kelly for the better part of the last two seasons, but not without some bumps in the road. Last season the New Jersey native missed the game at North Carolina due to a foot injury, then was pulled from his starts later in the season against both Miami (FL) and Stanford due to in-game struggles, then found himself mostly on the bench behind Ian Book against Louisiana State in the Citrus Bowl. This season Wimbush was replaced by Book again after starting the first three games- he did, however, get a fourth start against Florida State as Book was out with a rib injury.
While Notre Dame’s offensive output increased with Book under center (33.8 PPG) as opposed to Wimbush (21 PPG), both signal callers bring different skill sets to the table. Book is a pure passer with some mobility while Wimbush is the prototypical dual-threat (passer and runner) QB. Although Wimbush has a tendency to hang onto the ball longer than needed at times, his ability to extend plays with his feet added another layer to the Notre Dame offense. His numbers speak for themselves; 12-3 record as a starter, 193-of-382 pass attempts (52.5 completion percentage), 2,606 passing yards (roughly a passer rating of 90), 1,155 rushing yards, 36 total touchdowns, and he’s managed to stay out of trouble.
Head coach Brian Kelly is hoping that Wimbush will stay in South Bend but doing so could force him to change positions (running back or wide receiver). It’s doubtful that Kelly will use any kind of platoon system between Wimbush and Book in 2019. So if Wimbush does indeed opt to leave the Golden Dome there will be more than a few schools vying for his services. His experience, credentials, and the fact that he’s been on national television for pretty much his entire career would help him fit in just about anywhere. Here are some schools that could be potential destinations for Wimbush next season…..
Ohio State Buckeyes-
This, of course, all depends on whether or not current quarterback Dwayne Haskins enters the 2019 NFL Draft. And if he chooses to turn pro a year early, OSU will be in the market for a new signal caller. If the pieces were to fall in place for Wimbush in Columbus, Ohio then he would continue the program trend of starting dual-threat quarterbacks. In addition to Haskins OSU has also been the home for J.T. Barrett (2014-2017), Cardale Jones (2014-2015), and Braxton Miller (2011-2015) who posses similar abilities to Wimbush. Ohio State is always in the national spotlight, their stadium is bigger (102,000) than Notre Dame Stadium (77,622), they’re in the championship mix every season, and they’re one of the most successful programs in the nation so Wimbush would fit right in.
Illinois Fighting Illini-
Sticking with Big Ten country, the quarterback position has been a revolving door during Lovie Smith’s tenure in Champaign. Wes Lunt, Chayce Crouch, Jeff George Jr., Cam Thomas, A.J. Bush, and M.J. Rivers have all started under center for Illinois since 2016. Lunt wasn’t a Lovie Smith recruit but he is the only quarterback who’s started a full 12-game season for Smith thus far (2016). The others have had almost little to no success as the remaining five players have combined for 4,461 passing yards, 1,260 rushing yards, and 36 total touchdowns. George wound up transferring to Pittsburgh to finish his college career, Crouch retired due to multiple injuries, while Thomas decided to transfer just before this season began as he was benched in favor of Bush.
Bush is out of eligibility after completing this season. He transferred from Virginia Tech over the summer as a graduate student but he started 10 games for the Illini in 2018, he finished nine of those games (was pulled from the Wisconsin game due to an injury), and missed two early season games due to a hamstring injury. Freshman M.J. Rivers got the nod while Bush was injured but with mixed results. The other quarterbacks currently on the roster consist of three freshman and a sophomore who have almost no game experience. So while it’s unknown if Wimbush would want take part in a rebuilding project, at the same time he would be the 2019 starter for coach Smith if he were to ever end up at Illinois. His experience alone would give the team a huge upgrade.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets-
Paul Johnson has now retired as the Jackets head coach and his triple-option offense leaves with him. Geoff Collins will head the program in 2019 and he’ll be bringing a more conventional offense to Atlanta. So perhaps he’ll be looking for a new quarterback to run his playbook. TaQuon Marshall is a senior and will be graduating after this year, while freshman Tobias Oliver could be forced to change positions or transfer unless the new regime feels that he has the mechanics to run Collins’ new offense. Bringing in Wimbush for year one would be a major concrete step in establishing a new identity as it shouldn’t take too long to acclimate him to said system.
Miami (FL) Hurricanes-
Trying to find one word to describe Mark Richt’s tenure in South Florida to this point is difficult. But what can be said is that things haven’t gone the way that anyone had hoped it would. The biggest issue has been the quarterback carousel that Richt has had to endure as opposed to his time at Georgia. Perhaps hitting the reset button for the quarterback position is in order to turn things around for Miami. While Wimbush struggled in his start against the Hurricanes in 2017, he could bring stability under center for Richt.
Miami is another team that’s accustomed to the national spotlight. They also play in an NFL stadium, and the weather in South Florida can’t be beat. Moving south could work in Wimbush’s favor if it happens.
Arizona State Sun Devils-
Manny Wilkins led the Sun Devils to a 7-6 record and a Las Vegas Bowl appearance in Herm Edwards first year as the head coach of the team. But Wilkins (8,624 career passing yards, 1,035 rushing yards, 72 combined career touchdowns) is a senior and once he graduates the quarterback position in Tempe, Arizona will have a huge question mark. That’s because the other six players at the position only have two combined pass attempts between them. Convincing Wimbush to come out to the desert southwest will push those questions aside for 2019. And having Wimbush on board will keep Arizona State competitive in the Pac-12 South.
Happy New Year everybody.