Ian Book Returning Is Bad For Notre Dame

It was never really in doubt but Ian Book officially announced he would be returning to Notre Dame next season.

Book returns and will be the expected starter for his third season. In most cases this woud be great news. However, the return of Ian Book is bad news for everyone involved.

Book Regression

2019 was supposed to be the year that Ian Book became the QB that Notre Dame had been waiting for. Tommy Rees made comments that he could be the next Drew Brees. Despite falling flat against a generationally talented Clemson team, Ian Book was going to take the next step. Here is what that looked like:

Passing YardsCompletiton PercentageYards Per AttemptQB Rating
(10 games)
(13 games)

Yards and touchdowns were up in 2019 while interceptions were down. That is a few great stats to point out to show growth and progressions. But before I dive into those, I wanted to highlight a few important stats.

Completition percentage was down almost 10% in 2019. That could be for a number of reasons and it typically dips when a QB takes more downfield shots. The problem is Ian Book didn’t take that many deep passes and his yards per attempt actually dropped. He was attempting shorter passes in 2019 and it resulted in a big drop off and a lower QB rating.

Book’s Disappearance

My biggest argument against Book is his disappearance against better competition and stat padding against lower competition. It makes his numbers look really solid at the end of the year but it doesn’t mean much when Notre Dame drops every big game.

P5 & G5

In 2019 Notre Dame played seven P5 teams with a winning record and six teams that were either G5 or a P5 team tht finished .500 or worse. Here is what Ian Book averaged a game against the two groups:

TDsINTsComp. %
P5 Teams
(combined 60-31)
207 yards
a game
G5/.500 or under
(combined 31-42)
263 yards
a game

Here is the break down even further with P5 teams that finished .500 or worse and the G5 teams:

TDsINTsComp. %
G5 teams
(combined 16-21)
301 yards a game5071
.500 or worse P5 teams
(combined 15-21)
225 yards a game3.6.659
Winning record P5 teams
(combined 60-31)
207 yards a game1.1.5757.2

Michigan and Georgia

So you can point to Ian Book having a great record as a starter or blame the entire team for the Michigan collapse. However, you can’t make excuses for how far his numbers fall as the competition increases. Against winning P5 teams Ian Book is average at best. If you look at the two biggest games of the year, Ian Book has pretty terrible stats:

TDsINTsComp. %
Michigan +
(20-5 combined)
174 yards a game1.5146.85

Book is a fine QB and he doesn’t deserve all of the blame. He had a hot and cold run game that did’t always compliment him at times. But we can’t just point to his overall stats without looking at his performance on a game-by-game basis. Ian Book fails to show up when the lights are brightest and Notre Dame needs someone that can elevate the players around them. That brings us to the next issue.

The Brian Kelly Effect

People are pretty torn on Ian Book and his return for another season. One major reason is lack of trust in Phil Jurkovec and his inability to beat out Ian Book in the Spring. Fans will be quick to say Book is the best option and Jurkovec is a bust. While I strongly disagree, lets take that as true for a second. That is a major problem.

If Phil Jurkovec hasn’t developed and is a bust, that would continue the trend at Notre Dame. Brian Kelly has a growing resume of not being able to develop a QB and Ian Book is more proof after a slight regression in 2019. Jurkovec would be another top 10 QB with all the potential in the world that BK ruined.

My biggest worry with Ian Book is settling for good but not great. PJ being a bust and Ian Book being the only viable option would doom Notre Dame to another 9 or 10 win season and an underwhelming bowl game. The fact that Ian Book is coming back means a conversation was had with Brian Kelly and Tommy Rees. Kelly likes to keep things comfortable and Jurkovec will be reserved to the red cap if he sticks around in 2020.

Ian Book And Looking Ahead

The biggest question for 2020 will be the development of Book and his ability to grow. The schedule will be difficult and Book would have to buck a long trend of disappointing quarterbacks under Kelly. He would also have to turn around his active regression while also having to take on Clemson and Wisconsin next season.

To sum it up, most believe Book will be better just because he will be another year older and develop. 2019 ws supposed to be the year he took the next step. It resulted in a QB that struggled with reads, missed wide open receivers, disappeared against top teams, struggled against P5 teams with a winning record, and winning big games.

Let’s pretend 2020 is the year everything changes and the QB development issues are a thing of the past. Lets also just pretend the disappearing act against the last three quality opponent never happened and the 2020 Clemson game will go just fine.

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