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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press QB Brandon Wimbush has taken most of the first-team reps at practice this week and the Irish plan to start him against Florida State on Saturday. Ian Book was injured last week at Northwestern.

Friday, November 09, 2018 1:00 am

Injury forces Irish to switch QBs

Wimbush to start after Book hurt at Northwestern

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

Notre Dame vs. Florida State

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend

Records: Notre Dame (9-0), Florida State (4-5)

TV: NBC

Radio: 1190 AM, 100.9 FM

Notre Dame's offense will likely have a different look Saturday when the Irish take on Florida State.

After Ian Book started the last six games for the Irish (9-0), senior quarterback Brandon Wimbush will reportedly get his first start since Week 3 against Vanderbilt. Book suffered what coach Brian Kelly called an upper-body injury against Northwestern and is day-to-day. 

“The quarterback that is taking reps for us (Wimbush) is a guy that you would say is of championship quality,” Kelly said. “He's 12-3 (as a starter) for a reason.

“He's worked really hard on the things he wants to be better at,” Kelly added. “He's an incredible competitor. ... If he's given the opportunity, he'll play really well.”

The senior from Teaneck, New Jersey, led the Irish to a win over Michigan, the team with the No. 1 defense in the country, in the season opener. He went 8-3 in games he started and finished last season and is 3-0 in starts this season.

Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chip Long slightly remade the Notre Dame offense when Book became the starter, mostly eschewing long passes for more short and intermediate throws. With Wimbush back in the starting lineup, Notre Dame fans can expect the Irish to try to push the ball down the field with the senior's superior arm strength.

One factor working in Wimbush's favor is the presence of running back Dexter Williams, who was suspended for the first four games of the season. Williams is averaging 6.1 yards per carry and has run for more than 100 yards three times in his five games this season.

Having Williams in the backfield should take pressure off Wimbush to be the team's primary ball-carrier, as he often was early in the season, and make Notre Dame's run-pass option plays more dangerous.

“He's been such a big part of our success this year,” Kelly said of Wimbush on Tuesday. “He's got to stay ready. Who knows what happens, right? Every week we remind him. He knows that he's one step away from going back out on the field.”

“He's practiced really well. I think that's the biggest thing more than anything else, is it's easy to lose your edge when you're not starting. He's fought that. So he's just been a great teammate and he's kept himself prepared.”

On the play in which he was injured, Book scrambled and attempted a late head-first dive to avoid contact. A Northwestern defender who was getting ready to tackle the quarterback tried to adjust for the dive, but ended up pushing his knee into Book's ribs.

Book downplayed the hit after the game.

“It just knocked the wind out of me, but I'm doing fine,” the quarterback said.

The play was in the first quarter, so the junior QB was able to play the rest of the game with the injury, but the problem appears to have worsened this week. Kelly said Book has been at practice, but his participation has been limited.

“We knew that (Book) was banged up during the game and then in subsequent follow-ups on Sunday,” Kelly said. “We were going to have to keep an eye on him throughout the week.”

Book has outplayed Wimbush statistically since the former took over. The junior from El Dorado Hills, California, completed 74.5 percent of his passes for 8.9 yards per attempt and has 15 touchdown passes against only four interceptions. By contrast, Wimbush hit the mark on just 55.3 percent of his passes for 7.8 yards per attempt, while throwing one touchdown and four interceptions.

If Wimbush gets hurt, Kelly said true freshman Phil Jurkovec is prepared to handle a limited version of the offense.

dsinn@jg.net