Notre Dame secured its 14th commitment in the 2016 class last night in the person of California quarterback Ian Book, who had been committed to
the privateer The Good Ship Leach Washington State. Book is listed at 6'1" and 200 pounds; the 247 Composite ranks him as the #596 player overall, #22 pro-style quarterback, and #62 player in California.
There has been a lot of debate, here and elsewhere in the fanbase, about whether we should take a quarterback in the 2016 cycle. I would've been sort of OK with not taking one, but I feel better with having Book in the fold. As for two of the more common complaints that will probably be out there about him, that he's not elite and that he's a pro-style passer:
- Mike Leach wanted him, and Mike Sanford has wanted him since he was at Boise State. That Sanford still really wants him now - he visited Book during the evaluation period and never lost contact with him - with the bigger recruiting pool Notre Dame has, should tell you how he has this kid rated in his own mind. Also remember that we don't need him to be elite - when he enrolls, we'll have two more years of Zaire, three more of Kizer, and four more of Wimbush with perhaps an elite 2017 quarterback waiting in the wings.
- As far as style, I think people need to look more closely at the quarterbacks we've had on campus in the Kelly era. Zaire and Hendrix are definitively dual-threat quarterbacks, but Crist, Rees, Golson, Kiel, Kizer, and Wimbush are all pro-style quarterbacks, some of whom can run (sorry, Tommy). Book and top 2017 target Hunter Johnson are more in the Crist/Golson/Kiel mold - pocket passers who can run well enough to keep you honest. Wimbush is really an elite pro-style passer who is also a very good runner, but he's definitely a passer first.
Recruiting Service Rankings
Rivals - 3 star (5.6 rating), NR overall, #18 position, #67 in California
247 - 3 star (87 rating), #656 overall, #26 position, #63 in California
ESPN - 3 star (79 rating), NR overall, #22 position, #47 in California
Scout - 3 star, NR overall, #44 position, #67 in California
247 Composite - 3 star (0.8600 rating), #596 overall, #22 position, #77 in California
In addition to Notre Dame, Book also holds offers from Harvard, Yale, Boise State, Idaho, UNLV, and Washington State, and had drawn interest from Arizona State and Colorado.
What stands out immediately is Book's accuracy. Throw after throw after throw is on the money, no matter what kind of throw or what size window he's throwing into or, often, no matter if he's on the move. He also shuffles around in the pocket nicely without losing his composure; I'm guessing that's one of the things Sanford likes about him too, since Coach is such a nut for footwork. Book also shows good mobility outside the pocket and toughness on designed runs. His accuracy is excellent; he seems not to be great at anything else, but good enough to be credible (foreshadowing for the "Impact" section).
There are two things for him to work on that I saw. The first is arm strength; true, his potential gains here are limited, but there are some opportunities. I think he has some mechanical stuff to clean up that would create an incremental increase, and it's entirely possible to develop an arm-strengthening workout routine with weights and drills; I doubt you could get much more than, say, a 10% boost out of that, but in a game of inches it would help him. The other thing is that I think he forces the ball sometimes - there were some entertaining scrambling completions on his highlight film, but many of them were 50/50 balls. He'll need to rein that in as the margin for error shrinks at the next level.
Barring QB-pocalypse 2.0 (or are we on 3.0 now? maybe 4.0?), there's no way Book would play ahead of Zaire, Wimbush, or Kizer in 2016. Probably not even Monty VanGorder. He has about as solid of a guarantee as it gets that he'll get a redshirt year to get stronger and learn what Mike Sanford wants him to learn.
Long Term / Career
I think Book has everything he needs to be a solid career backup. That might sound like damning with faint praise, but as we saw in the 2013 season, when Tommy Rees was the only viable quarterback we had, it's actually a pretty important role. Wimbush is the kind of talent you don't see very often, and whoever we bring in with the 2017 cycle will be of an ilk with Brandon. Book will do the very important job of spelling the lead dog when he needs it, and not cratering the team's win probability metric when he's pressed into action.
Welcome to the family, Ian!