The Notre Dame Fighting Irish enter the 2018 season with a quarterback competition, and anytime you don’t know who your starting quarterback is going to be, there’s a perception that the position is a problem.
However, at a program like Notre Dame, competition is healthy, and there are plenty of reasons to like the composition of this quarterback room for the next five years.
Brandon Wimbush is not without flaws, to be certain. We’re aware of the accuracy issues that plagued him in 2017. They factored heavily into a disappointing finish to the regular season.
At the same time, his athleticism adds a dynamic to the Notre Dame running game that makes it difficult to defend. At 6-foot-1 and 227 pounds, he’s built more like a punishing running back than your prototypical quarterback and he used that frame and athleticism to rush for 14 touchdowns.
With room to improve as a passer, he should make progress. So, if you get two more seasons out of him as a starter, the end product should be a player who helps this program more than he hurts it.
Behind him is sophomore quarterback Ian Book, who showed against LSU in the Citrus Bowl that he has skills that can translate into long-term success for Notre Dame. Book led the Irish the entire second half and completed 14-of-19 passes for 164 yards for 2 touchdowns, including a game-winning, 55-yard score to Miles Boykin.
He’s athletic, rushing for 36 yards in the bowl victory and 207 yards on the season in limited action. And while he might not be as big a running threat as Wimbush, he is a more accurate passer.
Overall, Book might be a safer play for Notre Dame, but with a lower ceiling than Wimbush.
Those are the realistic candidates at the moment, but Notre Dame’s quarterback situation gets even better when you look beyond that.
Avery Davis is a redshirt freshman with so much athleticism that the Irish coaching staff is adamant they’ll find ways to get him the football this fall even though he’s not a serious contender to win the starting quarterback’s position. Like Wimbush, if he can become a more polished passer he’s got the potential to change the entire complexion of the offense.
Then there’s incoming freshman Phi Jurkovec who might be the most exciting player of the bunch.
In an era where so many quarterbacks enroll early to get a spring under their belt before their freshman season and accelerate the learning curve, Jurkovec elected to finish his high school basketball career and graduate with the rest of his class. In at least one way, that could wind up being beneficial to the former 4-star recruit.
Jurkovec would have to dazzle to be a serious factor for the job in 2018 when he arrives in the summer. But if that doesn’t happen, it forces the fan base to be realistic about his learning curve.
Perhaps it takes a year and he’s ready to put the quarterback controversy to bed in 2019. Maybe it takes until 2020 after Wimbush has graduated.
Either way, the Irish have confidence that Jurkovec has the ability to be a starting quarterback in this program. And when he takes the job, the intention is for him to keep it and become possibly the best professional quarterback prospect of the Brian Kelly era.
With a redshirt, Jurkovec could theoretically give the Irish security at quarterback through 2022. After that, there’s uncertainty after Class of 2019 commitment Cade McNamara backed off his pledge earlier this month.
They’ve got time to find a quarterback or two to ease fears beyond Jurkovec in the Class of 2019 or 2020. However, they should feel good about how they project at quarterback over the course of the next 4-5 years, at least.