2018 Notre Dame Spring Football Position Analysis: Quarterback
Notre Dame football fans may find this a bit perplexing, but veteran Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly said Monday that he is seeking to create questions regarding his 2018 squad throughout this spring, not find answers.
What Kelly meant by that was by finding the questions surrounding his program; he can then solve those issues with answers.
“We’re going to put our players in positions where they haven’t succeeded quite as well,” Kelly said, “or maybe as coaches we haven’t been as good as we need to be, and that will be our spring.”
The Irish open spring football today with the first of 15 practices, culminating with the Blue-Gold Game on April 21 (12:30 p.m.) and there is no position with a bigger question mark hovering over it than quarterback.
News-Sentinel.com sports reporter Tom Davis has been writing on Notre Dame football for nearly two decades and will take an in-depth look at the each position group for next season as it pertains to this spring.
Today’s position: Quarterback
Coming next: Running back
Three quarterbacks, each with varying levels of experience, will get looks at the quarterback position. They are Brandon Wimbush, Ian Book, and Avery Davis.
Kelly said Monday that the same player that started almost all the games in 2017 (Wimbush) will be the initial player to guide the Irish offense this spring. However, that is a far cry from proclaiming the redshirt junior as the emphatic starter.
“You’ve got to put somebody out there first,” Kelly said. “By virtue of a lot of the really good things that Brandon did last year, he’ll go out with the first group.”
“But we all know Ian was integral in our last win against LSU,” Kelly continued, “and he deserves an opportunity to compete as well.”
So Wimbush will get the first opportunity to work with the number one offensive unit, but Book is going to be mixed in there also.
Wimbush was maddeningly inconsistent last season, ranging from really effective (he accumulated almost 2,700 yards of offense and played a role in 30 scores) to mediocre (he completed just 49.5 percent of his throws).
Ultimately, he was benched in three of the final four games, as Kelly went with Book, who played his best football in the Citrus Bowl victory over LSU, as Kelly noted.
“I don’t think we’re being totally honest if we say that there’s competition and you get the second-team reps the whole spring,” Kelly said of his handling of Book this spring. “Ian’s got to have an opportunity to have weapons around him and have that opportunity as well.”
Kelly admitted that he doesn’t have a definitive plan as to who will get a specific number of reps with which offensive unit. He is going to be fair and manage the rotation by feel, depending on how each player is exhibiting the traits and level of play necessary for Notre Dame to succeed.
“How we’ll split them,” Kelly said. “I’m not quite sure right now. I mean, I think it’s something that we’ll see from day-to-day.
“But Ian’s going to have that opportunity as well. It’s not going to be traded off every day. They’ve got to gain some continuity and consistency with their unit as well.”
In the case of Davis, the redshirt freshman will also get an opportunity to show what he can do, but the interesting thing that Kelly said Monday was that it may be at multiple positions.
Davis is going to get a look from the Fighting Irish coaches as a quarterback, his natural position, but he is also going to take some reps at wide receiver, a position group that Kelly said is lacking in depth right now.
“Yeah, so, Avery, again, is a quarterback,” Kelly said, “and we want to give him a chance to really continue to develop his skills at quarterback. But when he’s not playing quarterback, we want to see what else he can do for us. He’s a very gifted player, and we may try to get him involved in opportunities where he touches the ball other than just in the quarterback position.”
Notre Dame fans (and media) have seen this movie too many times to count.
Kelly said Monday that it may be a situation in which one player (Wimbush) doesn’t definitively beat out his competition (Book) and the Irish could play two quarterbacks next fall.
“You always hope that one guy just says I’m head and shoulders,” Kelly said. “If we have that situation, I think we’re in pretty good position if we have clear separation.”
“You always have that opportunity,” Kelly said of playing two quarterbacks. “Do I wish that we have that? No, I don’t wish that we have that scenario occur. It’s hard, you know? It’s not an easy deal. We’d like to have one guy, but we’ll deal with it as we go along.”
In other words, Irish Nation, prepare yourself for yet another season with a quarterback controversy.
For more on college football, follow Tom Davis on Twitter at Tom101010 and on Facebook at Thomas Davis.