2019 Notre Dame Football Preview

Digital Edition

Blue & Gold Illustrated: 2019 Notre Dame Football Preview

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Page 47 of 163

46 ✦ BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED 2019 FOOTBALL PREVIEW QUARTERBACKS I n big-time college football, even being highly adept at quarterback is just not good enough at times. The 2018 college football season served as the ultimate example. • Alabama's Jalen Hurts was 27-2 as a starter in 2016-17 — but was supplanted by Tua Tagovailoa in 2018 to elevate the offense even higher after he was the hero of the 2017 national title game off the bench. Hurts is now at Oklahoma. • Clemson's Kelly Bryant led Clemson to the 2017 College Football Playoff and a 4-0 introduction last year — but was replaced by freshman phenom Trevor Lawrence, who guided the Tigers to their second national ti- tle in three years. Bryant is now at Missouri. • Likewise at Notre Dame — despite a 3-0 start in 2018 with Brandon Wimbush, who earned the game ball in the season-opening win versus Michigan and played a major role in Notre Dame's 10-3 improvement in 2017. It was Ian Book who replaced him as the starter by game four and increased the scoring output from 23.3 to 36.6 points per game, while ranking among the nation's most efficient passers and directing the 12-0 Fighting Irish to the College Football Play- off. Wimbush is now at Central Florida. Now comes the tough part: Taking that level of excellence to a higher tier, especially after the 30-3 loss to Clemson in the Cotton Bowl in which Book and the entire offense floundered. Book was challenged throughout the spring by third-year offensive coordinator Chip Long to test his arm more down the field to help raise the offense to "next level" status. If you want to be at the top of the heap, complacency is the top foe, even when Book had statistically one of the best seasons ever by a Notre Dame quarterback. "I want to see it when we're playing elite teams," Long said of Book's continued prog- ress this spring. "But he's challenging him- self. There hasn't been a fear. "He's turned it loose, had some good throws, had some bad throws, had some drops. But you've got to push yourself to do that to be considered an elite quarterback." For now, Book doesn't appear he will be challenged like Hurts and Bryant were at Al- abama and Clemson, respectively. Whereas Book finished spring on a strong note, in- cluding leading four touchdown drives in seven possessions versus the No. 1 defense in the Blue-Gold Game, sophomore backup Phil Jurkovec sputtered against the reserves. "One's on advanced calculus, the other one is still getting past algebra right now," Long summarized. "Ian's been doing it for three years. He knows the offense really well. He's brought really good, steady lead- ership. He's not a vocal guy, but he walks with great confidence, and you can see that with his play with the receivers this spring, and all of our skill guys." "We felt like his throws were flat last year," head coach Brian Kelly said of Book's upgrade this spring. "He pushed the ball vertically and put a little bit more air for our guys to adjust to the football. All the things he's been improving on. It's been a nice step for him." Growth can never cease. ✦ JOB GROWTH Ian Book attempts to capitalize on his 2018 progress and success After taking over the starting position in game four last season, Book helped increase Notre Dame's scor- ing from 23.3 to 36.6 points per contest. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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