The Notre Dame football depth chart battle is a tough one. The Fighting Irish 2017 season ended with questions at the quarterback position. Those questions are still there. So, who’s going to be the starting quarterback when the Irish kick off against Michigan in three weeks? Will it be redshirt senior Brandon Wimbush, who took most of snaps behind center last season? Or will it be junior Ian Book, who came in for Wimbush during the Citrus Bowl and led the Irish to victory over LSU. Most of the questions were a derivative of Wimbush’s accuracy woes and his inability to make good decisions under pressure.
Notre Dame Football Depth Chart Battle – QB
Wimbush ended the 2017 season with a 49.5% completion percentage. That’s far below expectations for a top-tier college quarterback. He also threw for 1,870 yards, 16 touchdowns with only six interceptions. On the ground, Wimbush provided the Irish with a potent rushing threat. He added 804 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns on the ground. Wimbush had a total of 30 touchdowns in 2017 — a high number considering his accuracy problems. However, his glaring sub-50% completion percentage cannot be ignored despite his freakish athleticism.
Wimbush’s inaccuracy became such a problem for the Irish coaching staff that Book was sent into the game during the second quarter of the Citrus Bowl. Book, in only his second extended game action of the year, finished the game completing 14 of 19 passes for 164 yards and one interception in a win against LSU. Book’s other extended playing time came in a start against North Carolina, which Wimbush sat out due to an injury. Book was pedestrian against the Tar Heels. He completed 17 of 31 passes for 146 yards and two interceptions to go along with a single touchdown pass.
After Book’s subpar North Carolina game and his bowl game victory in relief, some thought he would be the leading contender for the starting spot entering Spring Practice. However, to strengthen his weaknesses, Wimbush worked with Taylor Kelly in the offseason. Kelly also trains the likes of Tom Brady and Drew Brees. With Wimbush, Kelly worked on mechanics and accuracy issues – the crux of Wimbush’s problems. Brandon Wimbush clearly has no plans to relinquish the starting spot willingly.
Paul Jurkovec — In the plans?
To add to the stress for Wimbush, four-star quarterback prospect Paul Jurkovec was brought in. Jurkovec, a dual-threat quarterback, will probably not see playing time this year. Throughout the spring, head coach Brian Kelly has said that he wants Jurkovec to challenge the top two quarterbacks, but hasn’t talked about Jurkovec playing significant minutes. These comments left open the slight possibility of Jurkovec having a small chance to start. It won’t happen, though. He’s too young and too inexperienced.
Wimbush made a case for himself during the 2018 Blue-Gold game. He led the first team offense by completing 19 of 33 passes for 341 yards and two touchdowns. Although the scrimmage is a small sample size, Wimbush’s 57.6% completion percentage is miles ahead of where he ended last season. By all accounts, Wimbush outplayed Book during the game. Wimbush’s arm action, accuracy, and decision making were much improved in the Spring Game compared to the 2017 campaign. If he can continue the development in fall camp, he’ll be the clear starter entering the season.
This position battle can be sized up in several ways. The starting spot is Wimbush’s to lose, however. He’s undoubtedly athletic. His quick feet add a dimension that Book can’t match. Wimbush may be on a short leash early in the season, especially if the passing game isn’t effective in converting short third downs. Wimbush will have stiff competition facing Michigan and its stout defense on September 1st but if he can show some improvement with his decision making and accuracy, Wimbush will likely secure the starting spot for the entire 2018 season. Ian Book will be waiting in the wings and it would be no surprise if freshman Phil Jurkovec moves to the number three spot on the depth chart ahead of sophomore Avery Davis.
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