Notre Dame football: Will Ian Book play in next month’s bowl game?

(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

Could Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly look to evaluate freshman quarterback Ian Book during the Irish’s bowl game?

Notre Dame starts off a football season with national title hopes and optimism on high. The Irish begin the season strong and creep up the rankings. The Irish get outclassed by real contenders/suffer an inexplicable loss to a lesser team that drops them out of the running.

Rinse. Lather. Repeat.

The end result this season may not have surprised anyone in hindsight when taking into account the youth at some positions on the team, especially at quarterback. But it’s hard to pretend as if Notre Dame’s fall from #4 in the playoff rankings to #15 after that clunker against Stanford doesn’t still make you shake your head.

Gone completely is the optimism from wins over USC and North Carolina State when Notre Dame, at 8-1, truly did look like one of the best teams in the country.

And though the defense certainly struggled in the Miami and Stanford losses at times, the blame for Notre Dame’s collapse may largely lie on the offensive side of the ball.

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Specifically, their quarterback position, led by Brandon Wimbush, floundered when it was needed most.

Even when Josh Adams was running rampant behind Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson and Wimbush’s arm wasn’t needed much, his accuracy issues still drove fans nuts. And his own running ability, while extremely productive, couldn’t erase those fears as the tougher portion of the schedule loomed.

Turns out, they were right to worry.

As Adams struggled with injury and jam-packed boxes, Wimbush couldn’t carry the load in the passing game. Yes, his complement of receivers doesn’t exactly scream excellence, but it’s hard to make your quarterback look good when he’s missing you in every possible way.

Needless to stay, Wimbush must develop tremendously as a passer heading into next season if Notre Dame truly aims to contend for a title.

Perhaps he can look at whatever bowl game the Irish receive as the start of his journey toward becoming the quarterback the Irish need.

But perhaps it’s also time to consider the possibility that Wimbush might not be that guy. In that light, maybe the Irish might consider giving Ian Book a look in this coming bowl game, regardless of how Wimbush plays.

Could Past Repeat?

One might harken back to the 2015 Music City Bowl when Brian Kelly started Malik Zaire for the first time but also played incumbent starter Everett Golson. Zaire won MVP honors for that game, precipitating the chain of events leading to Golson’s transfer.

Now, that’s not to say that Book should start this bowl game.

At this point, even in spite of Wimbush’s struggles, Book does not fully look ready for prime time yet. He played unevenly in his first start, though Notre Dame won, and he looked overmatched against Miami when he briefly took over for Wimbush.

After seeing him play, it’s clear he needs a little more seasoning, though he does have some talent. And with that in mind, it makes sense that Kelly has largely rolled with Wimbush, especially given his ability to make plays with his legs when his arm falters.

Also, the 2015 quarterback situation was different than this one.

Golson had just finished his second full season as a starter, showing Kelly more or less all he needed (or wanted) to see from him. Wimbush has just started for one season. In all likelihood, he still has room for growth, giving Kelly incentive to stick with him rather than leap to the next option.

As such, while the possibility of playing Book in the bowl game wouldn’t be totally unprecedented, there are a lot of moving parts to this discussion.

Does Kelly still have a lot of faith in Wimbush’s potential as a passer, not just as an athlete? And would giving Book snaps of any kind over a healthy Wimbush affect the latter’s short- and long-term confidence?

Do the Irish intend to seriously promote the idea of an open competition at quarterback heading into next season? It certainly isn’t unheard of given their recent history with Golson/Zaire and Zaire/DeShone Kizer last year.

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What we do know for sure is that Notre Dame badly needs more out of its quarterback position, and it needs it…two months ago.

And in an effort to get the most of his team and keep his job security intact, who knows what Kelly might do?

Personally, I believe there’s a solid chance that Ian Book will get some snaps next month during Notre Dame’s last game of the 2017 season. When, how and how many are anyone’s guess, but something tells me the odds are better than 50/50 that it happens.