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Notre Dame Football: Comparing Ian Book to His Irish Quarterback Predecessors

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Here’s a statistical comparison of Book to most everyone between Matt LoVecchio and Brandon Wimbush.

Mike Miller/One Foot Down

Brian Kelly’s Notre Dame Fighting Irish are 3-0, which means the coach is naturally addressing rampant speculation that starting quarterback Brandon Wimbush will soon cede his position to backup Ian Book.

What do we know about Book, a 6-foot, 203 pound junior? The El Dorado Hills, Calif. product has run 206 plays at Notre Dame, or 734 fewer than Wimbush, a senior, has.

Here is Book’s stat line so far, in comparison to previous Irish quarterbacks through their first 206 plays (Google Sheets version here):

Notre Dame Quarterbacks, First 206 Plays

Quarterback LOVECCHIO HOLIDAY QUINN DILLINGHAM CLAUSEN SHARPLEY CRIST REES GOLSON ZAIRE KIZER WIMBUSH BOOK
Quarterback LOVECCHIO HOLIDAY QUINN DILLINGHAM CLAUSEN SHARPLEY CRIST REES GOLSON ZAIRE KIZER WIMBUSH BOOK
Run 151 158 99 121 107 100 108 102 113 135 115 120 129
Pass 55 48 107 85 99 106 98 104 93 71 91 86 77
Yds gained from run 604 699 531 492 122 146 490 437 464 778 653 925 742
Yds gained from pass 420 246 488 462 496 576 764 763 683 676 783 443 457
Total 1024 945 1019 954 618 722 1254 1200 1147 1454 1436 1368 1199
First downs 46 47 42 41 34 34 47 53 58 39 62 48 58
First downs by pass 18 16 20 19 25 21 23 34 28 17 32 17 23
First downs by QB run 7 13 4 1 2 3 4 1 3 5 9 10 9
% of 1Ds accounted for 54.3% 61.7% 57.1% 48.8% 79.4% 70.6% 57.4% 66.0% 53.4% 56.4% 66.1% 56.3% 55.2%
% of 1D runs accounted for by QB 25.0% 41.9% 18.2% 4.5% 22.2% 23.1% 16.7% 5.3% 10.0% 22.7% 30.0% 32.3% 25.7%
Touchdowns 13 7 5 3 1 2 6 10 10 5 15 11 13
Touchdowns thrown 6 0 2 1 1 2 4 8 3 3 6 2 5
Touchdowns thrown % of all TDs 46.2% 0.0% 40.0% 33.3% 100.0% 100.0% 66.7% 80.0% 30.0% 60.0% 40.0% 18.2% 38.5%
Touchdowns run 7 7 3 2 0 0 2 2 7 2 9 9 8
Touchdowns run by QB 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 2 0 2 4 0
% of total TDs that were run by QB 0.0% 14.3% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 16.7% 0.0% 20.0% 0.0% 13.3% 36.4% 0.0%
TDs by QB (arm or legs) 6 1 2 1 1 2 5 8 5 3 8 6 5
TDs by QB as % of total TDs 46.2% 14.3% 40.0% 33.3% 100.0% 100.0% 83.3% 80.0% 50.0% 60.0% 53.3% 54.5% 38.5%
Interceptions 1 4 6 7 3 2 3 5 3 0 3 1 4
Interceptions per attempt 1.8% 8.3% 5.6% 8.2% 3.0% 1.9% 3.1% 4.8% 3.2% 0.0% 3.3% 1.2% 5.2%
Fumbles 1 4 3 5 9 3 5 1 4 1 4 4 2
Fumbles lost 0 1 0 1 4 3 3 0 1 0 2 3 0
Fumbles by QB 0 3 2 1 3 1 1 0 3 0 1 4 1
Fumbles lost by QB 0 0 0 0 2 1 1 0 1 0 0 3 0
QB carries (including sacks) 31 61 12 6 29 29 20 7 24 51 31 43 38
Fumbles lost per QB carry 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 6.9% 3.4% 5.0% 0.0% 4.2% 0.0% 0.0% 7.0% 0.0%
Sacks 8 8 3 4 18 17 5 3 7 2 6 5 5
Sacked per pass attempt 14.5% 16.7% 2.8% 4.7% 18.2% 16.0% 5.1% 2.9% 7.5% 2.8% 6.6% 5.8% 6.5%
Completions 32 28 46 44 61 56 56 66 54 46 57 45 48
Completion % 58.2% 58.3% 43.0% 51.8% 61.6% 52.8% 57.1% 63.5% 58.1% 64.8% 62.6% 52.3% 62.3%
Yards per comp 13.1 8.8 10.6 10.5 8.1 10.3 13.6 11.6 12.6 14.7 13.7 9.8 9.5
Yards per attempt 7.6 5.1 4.6 5.4 5.0 5.4 7.8 7.3 7.3 9.5 8.6 5.2 5.9
Negative yardage plays 29 21 18 20 39 35 18 18 23 28 21 18 18
Negative yardage plays by QB 11 14 3 5 20 20 6 5 8 10 9 12 7
Explosive pass plays (20+ yards) 7 0 3 3 2 8 6 15 11 10 12 7 5
Explosive run plays (12+ yards) 12 12 13 9 5 1 17 11 9 24 15 19 16
Explosive plays total 19 12 16 12 7 9 23 26 20 34 27 26 21
Explosive plays by QB run 4 7 1 0 0 0 3 1 2 7 4 8 4
Explosive plays by QB arms/legs 11 7 4 3 2 8 9 16 13 17 16 15 9
Explosive % generated by QB 57.9% 58.3% 25.0% 25.0% 28.6% 88.9% 39.1% 61.5% 65.0% 50.0% 59.3% 57.7% 42.9%

There is a lot of variance here, so here’s a chart with four quarterbacks who put up numbers most similar to Book’s in their first 206 plays: Matt LoVecchio, Dayne Crist, DeShone Kizer and Wimbush.

Book vs. LoVecchio, Crist, Kizer & Wimbush

Quarterback LOVECCHIO CRIST BOOK KIZER WIMBUSH
Quarterback LOVECCHIO CRIST BOOK KIZER WIMBUSH
Run 151 108 129 115 120
Pass 55 98 77 91 86
Yds gained from run 604 490 742 653 925
Yds gained from pass 420 764 457 783 443
Total 1024 1254 1199 1436 1368
First downs 46 47 58 62 48
First downs by pass 18 23 23 32 17
First downs by QB run 7 4 9 9 10
% of 1Ds accounted for 54.3% 57.4% 55.2% 66.1% 56.3%
% of 1D runs accounted for by QB 25.0% 16.7% 25.7% 30.0% 32.3%
Touchdowns 13 6 13 15 11
Touchdowns thrown 6 4 5 6 2
Touchdowns thrown % of all TDs 46.2% 66.7% 38.5% 40.0% 18.2%
Touchdowns run 7 2 8 9 9
Touchdowns run by QB 0 1 0 2 4
% of total TDs that were run by QB 0.0% 16.7% 0.0% 13.3% 36.4%
TDs by QB (arm or legs) 6 5 5 8 6
TDs by QB as % of total TDs 46.2% 83.3% 38.5% 53.3% 54.5%
Interceptions 1 3 4 3 1
Interceptions per attempt 1.8% 3.1% 5.2% 3.3% 1.2%
Fumbles 1 5 2 4 4
Fumbles lost 0 3 0 2 3
Fumbles by QB 0 1 1 1 4
Fumbles lost by QB 0 1 0 0 3
QB carries (including sacks) 31 20 38 31 43
Fumbles lost per QB carry 0.0% 5.0% 0.0% 0.0% 7.0%
Sacks 8 5 5 6 5
Sacked per pass attempt 14.5% 5.1% 6.5% 6.6% 5.8%
Completions 32 56 48 57 45
Completion % 58.2% 57.1% 62.3% 62.6% 52.3%
Yards per comp 13.1 13.6 9.5 13.7 9.8
Yards per attempt 7.6 7.8 5.9 8.6 5.2
Negative yardage plays 29 18 18 21 18
Negative yardage plays by QB 11 6 7 9 12
Explosive pass plays (20+ yards) 7 6 5 12 7
Explosive run plays (12+ yards) 12 17 16 15 19
Explosive plays total 19 23 21 27 26
Explosive plays by QB run 4 3 4 4 8
Explosive plays by QB arms/legs 11 9 9 16 15
Explosive % generated by QB 57.9% 39.1% 42.9% 59.3% 57.7%

The closest statistical comparison to Book is Crist, who had run 65 plays in 2009 as a backup to Jimmy Clausen before getting hurt. With Evan Sharpley graduated and Clausen off to the NFL to prove Mel Kiper Jr. correct, Crist took over the starting job in 2010.

Crist ran his 206th play under center about halfway through his third start that season — against the Michigan State Spartans.

My question to our loyal readers is this: Do you feel more or less confident in Ian Book’s ability to lead this 2018 Irish team and win games than you did about Crist’s ability to do the same in 2010?

COMPARING WIMBUSH AND BOOK

Now let’s look at the two competing quarterbacks from this year.

For perspective, Wimbush’s 206th play came in the first half of last year’s Boston College game. So he had already played against the UMass Minutemen and Pittsburgh Panthers (in 2015) and the Temple Owls and Georgia Bulldogs.

The run/pass mix is pretty much the same.

The Wimbush-led offense averaged 7.7 yards per run play, while the Book offense averaged 5.8 yards. The quarterbacks’ yards per completion and yards per attempt are almost exactly the same.

The Book-led offense is responsible for more first downs, and, perhaps surprisingly, almost as many via his legs as Wimbush’s legs (9 vs. 10). Book and Wimbush — by both their arms and their feet — both account for about 55 percent of all the first downs the Irish were getting. Wimbush has a slightly higher percentage of all of the runs that earned first downs while he was quarterback.

At this point, Book’s teams have scored more touchdowns (13 vs. 11) and he’s thrown for more (5 vs. 2). It’s probably no surprise that Wimbush has run for more touchdowns (4 vs. 0).

Book’s arm (passing) and his feet (running) account for 38 percent of all the touchdowns scored while he’s under center. Wimbush’s arm (passing) and legs (running) account for 55 percent of all the touchdowns.

Here’s my personal reservation with Ian Book — the interceptions.

Book has thrown four, or one out of every 20 pass attempts. At this point, Wimbush had only thrown one. The counter-argument, of course, is that Wimbush had already committed four turnovers (three fumbles, including one returned for a score in 2015) to Book’s four. The second counter-argument is that Wimbush’s interceptions have also increased this year. (For a career, he’s at 2.8 percent of all pass attempts turning into INTs.)

The “explosiveness” section won’t come as a surprise to any Irish fan. The amount of pass plays in excess of 20 yards favors Wimbush as does the amount of times Wimbush ran for 12 or more yards. Through 206 plays, Wimbush’s arms and legs were responsible for 15 of the 26 explosive plays the offense generated, or 58 percent. Book was responsible for 9 of the 21 explosive plays, or 43 percent.

So after looking at this data set, how does it impact your perception of Book in relationship to Wimbush (if at all)?

RECAPPING LAST “GAME”

After every game, I like to compare Wimbush’s stat line to his predecessors who have played quarterback for the Irish since 2000 and have logged as many snaps.

The wrinkle is that, since I’m looking for a specific segment of plays, they never overlap with one game of a predecessor. (It’s typically parts of two.)

So here’s how Wimbush looked in play #874 through play #940 of his Notre Dame career, in comparison to Carlyle Holiday, Brady Quinn, Clausen, Tommy Rees, Everett Golson and DeShone Kizer.

Notre Dame Quarterbacks, Plays #874 to #940

Quarterback HOLIDAY QUINN CLAUSEN REES GOLSON KIZER WIMBUSH
Quarterback HOLIDAY QUINN CLAUSEN REES GOLSON KIZER WIMBUSH
Run 54 40 30 35 29 27 44
Pass 13 27 37 32 38 40 23
Yds gained from run 302 124 107 172 109 116 242
Yds gained from pass 51 296 351 212 324 410 122
Total 353 420 458 384 433 526 364
Completions 4 19 23 25 27 23 13
Completion % 30.8% 70.4% 62.2% 78.1% 71.1% 57.5% 56.5%
Yards per comp 12.8 15.6 15.3 8.5 12.0 17.8 9.4
Yards per attempt 3.9 11.0 9.5 6.6 8.5 10.3 5.3
First downs 18 19 19 23 22 21 19
First downs by pass 3 14 11 10 16 16 6
First downs by QB run 2 0 3 0 2 1 5
% of 1Ds accounted for 27.8% 73.7% 73.7% 43.5% 81.8% 81.0% 57.9%
% of 1D runs accounted for by QB 13.3% 0.0% 37.5% 0.0% 33.3% 20.0% 38.5%
Touchdowns 4 5 3 4 3 5 1
Touchdowns thrown 0 4 2 1 3 2 0
Touchdowns thrown % of all TDs 0% 80% 66.7% 25.0% 100.0% 40.0% 0.0%
Touchdowns run 4 1 1 3 0 3 1
Touchdowns run by QB 2 0 0 0 0 2 1
% of total TDs that were run by QB 50% 0% 0.0% 0.0% #DIV/0! 66.7% 1
TDs by QB (arm or legs) 2 4 2 1 3 4 1
TDs by QB as % of total TDs 50% 80% 66.7% 25.0% 100.0% 80.0% 100.0%
Interceptions 0 0 2 0 1 0 0
Interceptions per attempt 0.0% 0.0% 5.4% 0.0% 2.6% 0.0% 0.0%
Fumbles 3 1 3 0 3 3 0
Fumbles lost 2 1 2 0 2 2 0
Fumbles by QB 3 0 1 0 3 1 0
Fumbles lost by QB 2 0 1 0 2 1 0
QB carries (including sacks) 8 0 7 5 12 9 19
Fumbles lost per QB carry 25% #DIV/0! 14.3% 0.0% 16.7% 11.1% 0.0%
Sacks 1 0 2 3 2 2 0
Sacked per pass attempt 7.7% 0.0% 5.4% 9.4% 5.3% 5.0% 0.0%
Negative yardage plays 9 4 4 10 5 4 5
Negative yardage plays by QB 3 0 3 3 4 3 2
Explosive pass plays (20+ yards) 0 5 6 2 3 9 2
Explosive run plays (12+ yards) 9 1 2 7 2 2 6
Explosive plays total 9 6 8 9 5 12 8
Explosive plays by QB run 2 0 0 0 1 1 2
Explosive plays by QB arms/legs 2 5 6 2 4 10 4
Explosive % generated by QB 22.2% 83.3% 75.0% 22.2% 80.0% 83.3% 50.0%

Holiday: 17 snaps vs. the 2002 Pittsburgh Panthers, 50 snaps vs. Air Force Falcons.
Quinn: 28 snaps vs. 2004 Michigan State, 39 snaps vs. the Washington Huskies
Clausen: 51 snaps vs. the 2008 North Carolina Tar Heels, 16 snaps vs. Washington

Here’s play #916, a 10-yard throw that turns into a 30-yard gain courtesy of Golden Tate.

Rees: 1 snap vs. the 2011 Wake Forest Demon Deacons, 66 snaps vs. Maryland Terrapins

Here’s play #910, a 19-yard touchdown throw to Michael Floyd. (You may want to check your volume before hitting play here.)

Golson: 27 snaps vs. the 2014 Purdue Boilermakers, 40 snaps vs. Syracuse Orange

Here’s play #929, a 50-yard throw that turns into a 72-yard touchdown reception by Will Fuller.

Kizer: 19 snaps vs. 2016 Michigan State, 48 snaps vs. Duke Blue Devils

Here’s snap #904, a 44-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Stepherson. Despite the 1-2 start, all seemed right in this exact moment.