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Brandon Wimbush: Heisman Dark Horse Status Confirmed

Even as the underdog, expectations are high for the new Fighting Irish signal caller.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame Spring Game Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Internally, the hype for Brandon Wimbush has been brewing since his signing. Now, that hype is starting to amplify in the media, as well. After all, talking about the Notre Dame quarterback - whoever that may be - is going to get you views and clicks. It should not be a surprise then, that Wimbush has been tagged a dark horse to win the 2017 Heisman Trophy.

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Features Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

If you follow, write about, coach, or play for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, you’re no stranger to hype. “Notre Dame is overrated in this preseason” is basically a meme at this point, even though it only seems to be true once every three seasons. I even wrote this exact same piece on DeShone Kizer before last season. It did not work out for him, but he will be collecting an NFL paycheck now, so things could certainly be worse.

The difference between the hype around DeShone Kizer prior to last season and the hype now building for Brandon Wimbush is clear. Kizer had the majority of a season under his belt, and had played so well in that season - as an emergency, nonetheless - that the idea he would be in the Heisman conversation at the end of the season seemed likely.

When it comes to Wimbush, it’s all based on potential. The former five-star recruit’s ceiling seems to be so high, it may not be so far off the wall to consider a meteoric rise to Heisman stardom for the quarterback. We have had small glimpses of this potential; he played well enough in spring game, and even gave us this highlight in some limited mop up duty two years ago:

But now, the reality of being the Notre Dame starting quarterback will present itself to Brandon completely unabridged and uncensored. Wimbush is a blue chip recruit with plenty of offensive firepower at his disposal. He’s replacing Kizer, who played well enough during his time in college to be analyzed as a “potential bust” in the NFL (another reality of being QB1 at UND); Kizer set records, won a few games, and was most recently part of a Cleveland Browns draft class that many thought was the best of the draft.

We’re considering Brian Kelly’s reputation as a good quarterback coach (though we’re not totally sold on it anymore) in our calculations of expectations. To top it all off, Wimbush did not just get to campus; he’s had two full years in the system. Simply put, we believe he will win in spectacular fashion over the couple of years.

But when you start talking about playoffs and Heisman Trophies before he’s ever taken a snap, you’re giving context to his performance without giving him a chance to, you know, perform. Remember, he is an underdog, as we reported on back in February. I’m not saying a spectacular season is unreachable for Wimbush and the Fighting Irish. I’m just saying I don’t expect a trip to the playoffs. Moving on.

Scott Pagano and College Football’s Free Agent Market

Grad transfers have basically become free agency for college football players, or so ESPN says.

NCAA Football: Louisville at Clemson Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve seen it happen with our own Fighting Irish. Avery Bradley, Cody Riggs and Michael Canteen are a few guys who recently decided to finish their careers after graduation at Notre Dame. On the other hand, guys like Lo Wood, Andrew Hendrix, Matt Hegarty, Devin Butler and Malik Zaire decided to leave the university after graduation and play a year for other schools. We’ve even seen Mike Brey and the Fighting Irish basketball squad do the same thing. Today, UConn transfer Juwan Durham is visiting Notre Dame, as Pat pointed out on Tuesday.

The big story in this offseason was grad transfer Scott Pagano, who quickly narrowed his list of teams to play for down to Notre Dame, Oklahoma Sooners, and the Oregon Ducks after winning a national championship with the Clemson Tigers.

The Pagano story was covered dutifully, but the ESPN article attempts to paint the reality of grad transfers in a way that we may otherwise miss. Grad transfers announce their intent and quickly, it becomes a lot like high school for them. Calls from coaches, scheduling visits, evaluating opportunities. The difference is that with four years of experience under one’s belt, it may be a bit easier.

The ACC Network is... Still a Thing

NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament Final-Notre Dame vs Duke Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

I bet you were worried about the ACC Network following the news of massive on-air talent layoffs at ESPN, weren’t you? Well, now you don’t have to. According to TigerNet, ACC Commissioner John Swofford sent out a memo reassuring the wondering masses of the inevitable emergence of the ACC Network.

As of now, the ACC Network is scheduled to launch in 2019. As you’ve probably experienced when trying to watch Notre Dame basketball games, ACC games are typically broadcast on WatchESPN or the like for now. That will all change with a dedicated network, and the man in charge doesn’t seem to be worried that the same fate will befall the new venture as did ESPN.

That’s all for Friday’s Irish Links. Remember, it’s Friday now, but if you’re irresponsible enough, every day can be Friday.