Let’s be realistic – Ian Book has had an up and down year and has struggled in his second year of development. Book, however is starting to show real signs of progress ever since he led the Irish to a game winning touchdown over a surging Virginia Tech team.
In case you missed it, Virginia Tech improved to 7-3 on the season after a 45-0 blowout of Georgia Tech. The schedule of the Irish is starting to finally take shape again as a very strong resume for a New Years Six bowl game.
Now, with a healthy sample size of his body of work, I am starting to see the similarities to a current NFL great.
Any time a quarterback measures in at six foot tall, one name always comes up.
Physically speaking, Book and Brees are nearly identical.
Of course, Book adds the ability to escape the pocket, perhaps something Brees did better in college than he has in the NFL. Brees is now 40 years old so his legs are really for emergency use only.
In fact when you look at the comparison between Brees in his time at Purdue, the former Boilermaker showed a regression in his touchdown to interception ratio – while Book now in his second full year has shown improvement. While Brees put up the yardage, Book does his work more efficiently.
Besides the physical similarities, Book is finally starting to show Brees-like poise in the pocket, running when he needs to and not as his first option.
Book is blossoming late for the Irish in 2019 and in all likelihood is going to return in 2020 as the starting quarterback.
Should Book and the Irish decide to continue their dominate run together, Book’s draft stock will sky rocket. Following the shellacking of Navy this past weekend, Book and Kelly improved to 16-3 – this includes post-season play. Book posted his third five touchdown performance this season, which is a new record for a Notre Dame QB.
Book received some limited game action in the 2017 season – similar in the way Brian Kelly uses Phil Jurkovec now.
Yet, it was the Citrus Bowl which was Book’s defining moment as he led the Irish to a 21-17 victory in comeback fashion over the now number one LSU Tigers.
Then, in 2018, Brandon Wimbush actually retained the starting job to begin the year. Wimbush benched after for his inefficiency running the offense. Wimbush did find ways to win, he was a great competitor for the Irish, but struggled to get over that 50% completion rate.
Kelly makes the switch to a junior quarterback on September 22, 2018. In just eight full-games, the Pro-Style quarterback from El Dorado Hills, California explodes for 2,468 yards finishing with 19 touchdowns to six interceptions. Most impressively a 70.4 completion percentage.
SECOND YEAR SLUMP
Of course, Book showed a bit of regression once he lost all of his reliable offensive weapons. Now, he has to operate with a very light repertoire. Chase Claypool is without a doubt his favorite target – they connected for four touchdowns this weekend against Navy – beside Claypool the WR corps is extremely thin.
Some to his credit, the teams that Notre Dame should beat handily, they have. I am referring to the Bowling Green and New Mexico’s of the world where Book did his damage before halftime.
The reality of the situation is, when the spotlight was brightest and Book was needed most he simply did not look like the same quarterback. The timing of the entire offense was just not there. Book never appeared to settle down in the pocket and then of course – given the chance to make a HUGE statement- they squander it away.
Cue the biggest let-down this season for Notre Dame and possibly the lowest-low since the 2016 season as the thumping by Michigan effectively took the wind out of the sails for the Irish to contend for a second straight College Football Playoff appearance. The entire team look horrendous so it was definitely a wake up call and Book has responded.
Looking back on the schedule, teams like Louisville, Virginia, Virginia Tech, USC, Georgia and Michigan are all sitting with six wins or more are bowl eligible.
The exceptions are Duke, Bowling Green, New Mexico – Notre Dame won those match ups with ease and Book played very well – as expected.
THE NEXT CHAPTER
Call me crazy, but I believe we have weathered the storm; Book will begin to elevate his play and leave his legacy as one of the best quarterbacks in the history at Notre Dame football.
Ironically, one particular NFL GM has been on the hunt for the next Brees – and that is the Chicago Bears very own – Ryan Pace.