Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 25 of 83

26 PRESEASON 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI B randon Wimbush excelling at his craft involves not only what he does on the football practice field through listening and learning, but also what he does off it while tuning out "the noise." During Notre Dame's 8-1 start last season in which the offense steam- rolled to 41.3 points per game and the team rose to No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings, Wimbush was rightfully heralded as one of the nation's most lethal dual-threat fig- ures at his position. Then after a 2-2 finish during which he was benched twice — and watched backup Ian Book rally the troops to victory in the Citrus Bowl versus LSU — Wimbush suddenly was blamed for bringing the offense down with his skittish passing and shaken confidence. "It's everything a quarterback needs to go out and succeed and play at the level he's expected to play at," Wimbush said about the significance of having confidence. "All the guys are looking at you … if you're out there and you're hyped up and you're confident in what you're about to go do and accomplish, the guys follow along." For Wimbush, one of the first steps needed — and highly recommended by his quarterbacks coach, Tommy Rees, who passed for 7,670 yards at Notre Dame from 2010-13 — was to disengage from social media, where his curiosity about what others think regarding the quarterback position brought him down even more. The physical work on his mechan- ics, technique, footwork, etc., were a separate element. Recalibrating be- tween the ears was just as significant, if not more so. "I've done a good job of kind of getting off the social media," Wim- bush said. "I think that's a huge part of it just mentally, understanding where you're at, where you want to be and who you are listening to. "You can have a lot of people come at you with different perspectives, and I think that can hurt you, espe- cially at the quarterback position. "You can't take too much in, and you don't want to spread yourself too thin. Understanding whose points are valid and are going to help you and which ones are going to benefit you — I think that's all part of playing the quarterback position, and being smart about that is huge in terms of where I want to be. "I saw the repercussions of it. I think I saw my improvements come when I started neglecting some of those opin- ions that started to come through." Never was it more evident than dur- ing the Aug. 11 practice open to the media. During warm-ups, Wimbush underwent an acute case of "the yips." Balls sailed alarmingly beyond tar- gets, and other times nose-dived into the ground. Once regular practice commenced, he settled in … but in cyberspace the highlights of his off throws merely in warm-ups became a referendum that "you either have it or you don't" as a passer. This is especially true when a year earlier only 49.5 percent of his passes were completed. Among 110 quar- terbacks in the Football Bowl Sub- division who threw enough passes to qualify in NCAA pass efficiency, Wimbush was the only one among the top 106 at less than 50 percent. "When I underachieve, I under- stand that and I know that and I take that upon myself to make those cor- rections," he said. "Being a first-year starter [in 2017], you want to exceed expectations, and I didn't. Unfortu- nately, I put a little too much weight on my shoulders. In year two some of that is off, and I'm trusting the other guys that are out there." Despite having a veteran offensive line, a proven running back in Josh Adams and a solid receiving corps led by Equanimeous St. Brown last year, Wimbush believes he put too much on himself in an effort to prove he was not the weak link. "There were a lot of expectations for me coming out as a first-year starter, and now I understand that there are 10 other guys on the offense that are going to do a great job of get- ting their job done," he said. "When all 11 guys on the offense are doing their job, I think this can be a real electrifying offense." The basic summary at quarterback is this: • There is much confidence that Notre Dame can be a nine-win team with either Wimbush or Book at quarterback … but Wimbush has that extra level of playmaking skills that, when on, could take the victories to 10, 11, 12 … • Wimbush became rattled at season's end, and one learns not to put too much into rhetoric from the spring, summer or even bowl prepa- rations when it comes to that over- stated word "confidence." Last December, the overwhelming theme coming from the football office was Wimbush needed the time off to clear his head and that he's primed for a big game in the bowl. But the confidence was in reality fragile, and he was benched in the second quarter. To paraphrase Vince Lombardi, confidence cannot be a sometime thing. It's an "all the time" thing. • Wimbush is a wonderful athlete who could be a Heisman candidate, but he also could encounter the same fate as predecessors Carlyle Holiday in 2003, Dayne Crist in 2011, or even Malik Zaire in 2016, where after so much early promise, it suddenly just collapsed. • If Wimbush falters, many will point to the Aug. 11 warm-up ses- sion where "the warning signs or red flags were there. The coaching staff put its head in the sand." If he fulfills his potential where the offense excels, then the masses will say "the investment was worth it, patience is a virtue and Rome wasn't built in a day. The signs were all there he could be a great one." Fasten the seat belts. ✦ PASSING JUDGMENT Keeping his poise and avoiding the noise will be vital to Brandon Wimbush's and the team's success Last year, Wimbush threw for 1,870 yards and 16 touchdowns despite completing just 49.5 percent of his passes. PHOTO COURTESY FIGHTING IRISH DIGITAL MEDIA

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - Preseason 2018