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Notre Dame Football: Comparing The Success Rates of Brandon Wimbush and Ian Book

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Including one way Ian Book can become more like Baker Mayfield.

NCAA Football: Stanford at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

If a Notre Dame Fighting Irish fan were to compare Brandon Wimbush and Ian Book at the same point of their careers, they may be surprised what they found during a quick glance.

Book’s Irish career now totals 496 plays. Wimbush snapped off #496 near the end of the first quarter against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.

A snapshot follows:

Wimbush vs. Book, First 496 Plays

Quarterback WIMBUSH BOOK
Quarterback WIMBUSH BOOK
Run plays 314 285
Yds gained from run 2359 1477
Rush yards per attempt 7.51 5.18
Runs by QB (excluding sacks) 87 73
Yds gained from run by QB (excluding sacks) 699 397
Yards per QB rush attempt 8.0 5.4
--- --- --
Pass plays 182 211
Completions 96 148
Completion % 52.7% 70.1%
Yds gained from pass 1095 1593
Yards per comp 11.4 10.8
Yards per attempt 6.0 7.5
--- --- --
Total offense (rush + pass yards) 3454 3070
--- --- --
First downs 137 149
First downs by pass 51 74
First downs by QB run 29 18
% of 1Ds accounted for 58.4% 61.7%
% of 1D runs accounted for by QB 33.7% 24.0%
--- -- --
Touchdowns 36 34
Touchdowns thrown 10 15
Touchdowns thrown % of all TDs 27.8% 44.1%
Touchdowns run 26 19
Touchdowns run by QB 12 3
% of total TDs that were run by QB 33.3% 8.8%
TDs by QB (arm or legs) 22 18
TDs by QB as % of total TDs 61.1% 52.9%
--- --- --
Interceptions 2 7
Interceptions per attempt 1.1% 3.3%
Fumbles 6 6
Fumbles lost 4 1
Fumbles by QB 6 2
Fumbles lost by QB 4 0
QB carries (including sacks) 99 85
Fumbles lost per QB carry 4.0% 0.0%
Sacks 12 12
Sacked per pass attempt 6.6% 5.7%
Negative yardage plays 49 45
Negative yardage plays by QB 23 17
--- --- ---
Explosive pass plays (20+ yards) 20 20
Explosive run plays (12+ yards) 50 34
Explosive plays total 70 54
Explosive plays by QB run 18 7
Explosive plays by QB arms/legs 38 27
Explosive % generated by QB 54.3% 50.0%
--- --- ---
First down success rate 36.5% 45.7%
Second down success rate 29.6% 51.5%
Third down success rate 31.5% 50.0%
Fourth down success rate 100.0% 80.0%
Overall success rate 33.5% 49.3%
Twitter: @andrewwinn

I do this comparison because it yields what I believe is an interesting discussion. Consider these questions as you look at the above data:

  1. How did you feel about Wimbush prior to the second quarter of the last year’s Wake Forest game? After limited reps in 2015, the redshirt sophomore (academically, a junior) was 6-1 as a starter heading into that contest.
  2. If the answer to the first question is that you had a positive impression of his play, is that different than you feel about him now?
  3. If the answer to the first question is that you had concerns about his play, what in the above data concerned you the most? Certainly, his completion percentage sticks out. But despite that, he was still averaging six yards gained per attempt.
  4. If you were positive about Wimbush then, concerned about him now, and are glad that Book is QB, do you have any concerns that Book will regress to the point where you will view him in the future as you do Wimbush now? If not, what data point is most suggestive that he’ll succeed where Wimbush did not?

A DEEPER LOOK INTO SUCCESS RATE

If there is a difference between Wimbush and Book, perhaps it’s easily identifiable by looking at success rate.

Success rate is Bill Connelly’s metric, which distills every play into a binary result — successful or unsuccessful.

Here are the criteria for “success rate” for an offense:

  • First downs: gaining at least 50 percent of necessary yardage (usually 5 yards) is successful.
  • Second downs: gaining at least 70 percent of necessary yardage is successful.
  • Third or fourth downs: gaining at least 100 percent of necessary yardage is successful.

Let’s first look at some baseline numbers.

The Notre Dame offense was successful on 378 of 911 plays in 2017, for a success rate of 41.5 percent. The Irish offense so far this year has been successful on 229 of 516 plays, a success rate of 44.4 percent. (Connelly’s numbers differ slightly from mine because he excludes garbage time.)

For passers, Connelly says success rate is strictly for pass attempts (all throws, plus sacks).

Wimbush’s success rate in 2017 was 32.6 percent; it’s been 40.2 percent so far this year. That second figure puts him in what Connelly would call “Ryan Mallett territory.”

Book, however, has a success rate this year of 54.9 percent. If he were able to keep that up over a career, that’d put him in the same category as Baker Mayfield. The Oklahoma Sooners quarterback had a career success rate of 54.8 percent. (Book’s career figure is 49.3 percent, which is akin to what Andy Dalton did for the TCU Horned Frogs.)

COMPARISON TO PAST QUARTERBACKS

As usual, I’m offering a comparison of Book to past Irish quarterbacks at this stage in his career (496 plays). This set includes Matt LoVecchio, Carlyle Holiday, Brady Quinn, Jimmy Clausen, Dayne Crist, Tommy Rees, Everett Golson, DeShone Kizer and Wimbush. I’ve added a few more stats this week, including rushing yards by a quarterback. These figures do not include sacks, so, yes, Rees really rushed 14 times for 19 yards. (For what it’s worth, Book’s running stats look similar so far to Kizer’s rookie year in 2015.)

For the second week in a row, the run/pass mix with Ian Book under center is exactly the same as it was under Golson in the period studied. Fun! That became the “ridiculous stat that may be indicative of nothing” in John Walters’ column for The Athletic.

Here’s the data in a Google Sheet, in case it’s hard to read here.

Notre Dame Quarterbacks, Through 496 Plays

Quarterback LOVECCHIO HOLIDAY QUINN CLAUSEN CRIST REES GOLSON KIZER WIMBUSH BOOK
Quarterback LOVECCHIO HOLIDAY QUINN CLAUSEN CRIST REES GOLSON KIZER WIMBUSH BOOK
Run plays 372 381 241 264 219 244 285 272 314 285
Yds gained from run 1718 1620 1073 526 819 1112 1404 1519 2359 1477
Runs by QB (excluding sacks) 59 127 28 28 30 14 61 74 87 73
Yds gained from run by QB (exc sacks) 393 670 87 70 131 19 310 424 699 397
Pass plays 124 115 255 232 277 252 211 224 182 211
Yds gained from pass 968 706 1299 1196 1959 1818 1476 1971 1095 1593
Completions 72 65 116 132 162 161 123 148 96 148
Completion % 58.1% 56.5% 45.5% 56.9% 58.5% 63.9% 58.3% 66.1% 52.7% 70.1%
Yards per comp 13.4 10.9 11.2 9.1 12.1 11.3 12.0 13.3 11.4 10.8
Yards per attempt 7.8 6.1 5.1 5.2 7.1 7.2 7.0 8.8 6.0 7.5
Total yards gained (run & pass) 2686 2326 2372 1722 2778 2930 2880 3490 3454 3070
First downs 117 119 108 94 136 137 145 150 137 149
First downs by pass 35 39 59 51 89 84 70 77 51 74
First downs by QB run 17 29 11 6 7 2 19 25 29 18
% of 1Ds accounted for 44.4% 57.1% 64.8% 60.6% 70.6% 62.8% 61.4% 68.0% 58.4% 61.7%
% of 1D runs accounted for by QB 20.7% 36.3% 22.4% 14.0% 14.9% 3.8% 25.3% 34.2% 33.7% 24.0%
Touchdowns 30 16 12 11 20 25 21 36 36 34
Touchdowns thrown 11 2 6 7 13 17 6 16 10 15
Touchdowns thrown % of all TDs 36.7% 12.5% 50.0% 63.6% 65.0% 68.0% 28.6% 44.4% 27.8% 44.1%
Touchdowns run 19 14 6 4 7 8 15 20 26 19
Touchdowns run by QB 1 2 0 2 4 0 5 7 12 3
% of total TDs that were run by QB 3.3% 12.5% 0.0% 18.2% 20.0% 0.0% 23.8% 19.4% 33.3% 8.8%
TDs by QB (arm or legs) 12 4 6 9 17 17 11 23 22 18
TDs by QB as % of total TDs 40.0% 25.0% 50.0% 81.8% 85.0% 68.0% 52.4% 63.9% 61.1% 52.9%
Interceptions 1 7 11 5 5 13 4 6 2 7
Interceptions per attempt 0.8% 6.1% 4.3% 2.2% 1.8% 5.2% 1.9% 2.7% 1.1% 3.3%
Fumbles 8 16 7 15 13 9 13 9 6 6
Fumbles lost 4 8 1 9 7 4 6 4 4 1
Fumbles by QB 1 9 4 5 4 5 8 3 6 2
Fumbles lost by QB 1 3 1 3 3 3 4 0 4 0
QB carries (including sacks) 72 127 35 60 46 19 73 89 99 85
Fumbles lost per QB carry 1.4% 2.4% 2.9% 5.0% 6.5% 15.8% 5.5% 0.0% 4.0% 0.0%
Sacks 13 16 7 32 16 5 12 15 12 12
Sacked per pass attempt 10.5% 13.9% 2.7% 13.8% 5.8% 2.0% 5.7% 6.7% 6.6% 5.7%
Negative yardage plays 55 59 51 77 48 44 41 57 49 45
Negative yardage plays by QB 22 34 11 35 19 9 18 25 23 17
Explosive pass plays (20+ yards) 14 6 12 12 20 30 21 27 20 20
Explosive run plays (12+ yards) 38 31 30 13 21 31 26 38 50 34
Explosive plays total 52 37 42 25 41 61 47 65 70 54
Explosive plays by QB run 13 17 4 0 3 1 7 10 18 7
Explosive plays by QB arms/legs 27 23 16 12 23 31 28 37 38 27
Explosive % generated by QB 51.9% 62.2% 38.1% 48.0% 56.1% 50.8% 59.6% 56.9% 54.3% 50.0%
Twitter: @andrewwinn