Blue and Gold Illustrated

May 2018

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

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34 MAY 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY BRYAN DRISKELL I ncumbent or not, a spring quar- terback battle at Notre Dame seems like a rite of passage. In his first year as a starter in 2017, quarterback Brandon Wimbush produced 30 touchdowns, including a school-quarterback-record 14 on the ground, but that was offset by a November collapse. He finished the season on the sidelines, watching Ian Book lead a fourth-quarter comeback against LSU in the Citrus Bowl Jan. 1. The result was another spring quarterback competition, but Wim- bush made quick work of this one and finished off his strong showing by completing 19 of 33 passes for 341 yards with a pair of scores in the Blue-Gold Game April 21. Talent has never been an issue for Wimbush, but consistency has been. He had far too many off moments last fall, something he took signifi- cant strides to eradicate this spring. "Consistency in his mechanics … was probably the biggest thing," Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said of the reason for Wimbush's strong spring performance. "His drop put him in a lot of compromis- ing situations in terms of throwing the football, and so I think that was cleaned up. It started with his atten- tion to those things, and being very coachable." Improving his fundamentals was important, but Wimbush needed to show he could be at his best on a more day-to-day and game-by-game basis. That is where the signal-caller must continue to work, and where the staff will continue to push him. "Repetition of what his mechanics need to be, what his platform needs to be," Kelly said when asked what Wimbush needs to continue to work on. "He threw a couple off his back foot, a questionable decision here or there. "Those were less of a concern for me because he's so conscientious about those things. I was much more interested in how he was go- ing to handle pre-game, how he's been handling the game situations and getting his intensity up a little bit." Often with a first-year starting quarterback the game tends to move too quickly or a player 's emotion can get the better of him. With Wim- bush, the Irish staff actually thinks sometimes he's too calm, and they spent the spring trying to get him to go about his business with a bit more fire. "What I want him to do is amp it up a little bit, because when he's amped up, and he's talking, and he's communicating, that comforts the other 10 players," Kelly explained. "They know that if Brandon Wim- bush is out there barking and telling guys what to do, they know we're going to score. "It's kind of like flipping that role a little bit and putting that on Bran- don to be, 'Hey, I want you to be vocal, I want you to say I want the ball.' Because if the other guys hear that you have that kind of demeanor and mindset, the other 10 guys are going to be cool customers." Wimbush playing at a higher level — and most importantly a more consistent one — allowed of- fensive coordinator Chip Long to install more of his offense than we saw a season ago, especially in the pass game. Notre Dame spent much of the spring expanding the pass at- tack, which was the Achilles' heel of the unit a season ago. During the spring game, Wimbush threw and completed a number of SPRING OVERVIEW: OFFENSE Strong performances from quarterback Brandon Wimbush and tight end Alizé Mack were among the highlights Wimbush capped a strong spring with a 341-yard passing effort in the Blue-Gold Game. PHOTO BY ANGELA DRISKELL

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