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Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 12 Ian Book, starting quarterback

Cotton Bowl Football

Clemson defensive tackle Albert Huggins (67) rushes as Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book (12) throws a pass in the first half of the NCAA Cotton Bowl semi-final playoff football game, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)


Listed Measurements: 6-foot-⅛, 208 pounds.2019-20 year, eligibility: A senior, Book has two seasons of eligibility remaining, including 2019.Depth chart: Despite the irrational clamors of some following the Cotton Bowl, Book remains the unquestioned starter at quarterback. It would take both incredible regression from him and exceptional progress from sophomore Phil Jurkovec for Book to be benched for any reason beyond injury.Recruiting: Every so often, Book is referred to as a “former Washington State commit.” That designation is both accurate of the consensus three-star prospect and a reflection of how one change can have great effects down the line. Quarterbacks coach Mike Sanford was at Notre Dame for two seasons, coming from the same position at Boise State. While in the Mountain West Conference, Sanford had chased the No. 15 pro-style quarterback in the country, per His pitch then was not strong enough, but once it included an Irish scholarship offer, Book was swayed. The two then overlapped in South Bend for a season, though it was a season in which Book preserved eligibility.

Book went from presumed career backup to starter of a Playoff team four weeks into last season. To that point he had completed 49-of-78 passes in his career, a 62.83 completion rate, for 469 yards with five touchdown passes and four interceptions. His most notable appearance came in the 2017 Citrus Bowl, completing 14-of-19 passes for 164 yards with two scores and one interception, Miles Boykin’s leaping heroics making Book the leader of a New Year’s Day victory.

Then Book took over for Brandon Wimbush for good last year, even though Wimbush had led Notre Dame to a 3-0 start. Book never looked back.

2018 as a starter: 211-of-311 for 2,615 yards and 19 touchdowns with seven interceptions in nine games. Book also had four rushing touchdowns.Career: 260-of-389 for 3,084 yards and 23 touchdowns with 11 interceptions in 22 total games.

His 68.15 completion rate last season broke the Irish record, previously held by Jimmy Clausen at 68.0 percent in 2009. Book’s career rate of 66.84 percent has him on pace to pass Clausen’s career record of 62.6 percent.

While it did not show in the Blue-Gold Game (when Book went 16-of-21 for 220 yards and a touchdown), Notre Dame wanted Book to make mistakes this spring. His completion percentage last year was remarkable and a piece of the offense, but it also derived somewhat from risk aversion. Taking chances is how an offense becomes more dangerous, so Irish offensive coordinator Chip Long wanted Book to get into that habit in practices. The thinking was, Book needs to find his limit rather than avoid coming near it.

“I expected a lot from Ian,” Long said at the end of spring practices. “I told him, challenge it, really challenge the offense. Test it, test your arm.

“... He’s challenging himself with his whole throws. There hasn’t been a fear. He’s turned it loose. He’s had some good throws, some bad throws, he’s had some drops. But you have to push yourself to do that if you want to be considered an elite quarterback.”

“Just as was said definitively a year ago, Book will play this season. While Kelly will want to get Jurkovec some in-game development, keeping Book at the ready will be a higher priority. The coaching staff will need to find the balance between Jurkovec’s development and the best competitive decisions for 2018.

“There is a scenario where Jurkovec passes Book for primary backup duties, but that seems unlikely. Presuming that does not come to fruition, Book could be counted on in a make-or-break moment when Wimbush sprains an ankle against Stanford or loses his helmet at Virginia Tech. Those are not moments for a true freshman less than two months into his collegiate career.”

Notre Dame v Northwestern

EVANSTON, IL - NOVEMBER 03: Ian Book #12 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish rushes for a touchdown during the second half of a game against the Northwestern Wildcats at Ryan Field on November 3, 2018 in Evanston, Illinois. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

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Book has four returning starting offensive linemen in front of him, two returning starting receivers and the most-highly touted Notre Dame tight end in years to throw to, and a dual-threat running back to rely upon. Everything is set up for Book to star.

Not to mention, the Irish defense has enough holes to be concerning, meaning an occasional shootout could come down to Book’s ability to move the offense.

Another year of record-setting completion percentages and an admirable touchdown-to-interception ratio would be a good sign, but it will not be the measure of success for Book. And it is too simplistic to say his perception will hinge entirely on Notre Dame’s record. If that was the case, Wimbush would not have been benched when he was last season.

Rather, the overall effectiveness of the Irish offense will reflect Book’s success. This space is not yet prepared to offer a points per game projection (that should come in the annual “40 predictions” column), but suffice it to say Notre Dame should exceed the 33.75 points it was averaging before the Cotton Bowl. (Scoring three points against Clemson dropped the average to 31.38 points per game.)

The number du jour this offseason has been closer to 40 points. While, again, this space will not yet suggest such, using that as a rough measuring stick for this exercise is appropriate enough. If the Irish approach or exceed 40 points per game (a reminder: the Brian Kelly era high is 34.2), that will be a sign Book connects on those challenging throws with some frequency. Not only will those individual plays result in scores, but they will also soften up defenses for the offense as a whole.

If Notre Dame has that type of success this year, it could set up Book to jump to the NFL with a year of eligibility remaining. Even if the Irish go “only” 10-2 or 11-1, it is hard to envision Book proving anything in 2020 that steering a prolific offense this season would not have already showcased.

In a quarterback-starved league, the number of high-profile prospects (Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert) in a given draft year does not inherently dissuade the next tier from jumping to the NFL like such does at other positions (a la offensive tackle depth in 2015 pushing Ronnie Stanley back to school). A quarterback needs to capture the imagination of only one front office to become a high draft pick. (See: Jones, Daniel; 2019.)

Book very well could return in 2020 after a strong 2019 and lead Notre Dame to 30 victories in his career, which would be a school record. But it is far from a sure thing, practically speaking.

NOTRE DAME 99-to-2:
No. 95: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle
No. 94: Isaiah Foskey, freshman defensive end, consensus four-star
No. 94: Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle
No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
No. 90: Hunter Spears, defensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
No. 87: Michael Young, receiver
No. 85: George Takacs, tight end
No. 84: Cole Kmet, tight end
No. 83: Chase Claypool, receiver
No. 80: Micah Jones, receiver
No. 78: Tommy Kraemer, right guard, three-year starter
No. 77: Quinn Carroll, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 76: Dillan Gibbons, offensive guard
No. 75: Josh Lugg, offensive lineman
No. 74: Liam Eichenberg, left tackle, two-year starter
No. 73: Andrew Kristofic, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 72: Robert Hainsey, offensive tackle, three-year starter
No. 71: John Olmstead, offensive lineman, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 69: Aaron Banks, left guard
No. 60: Cole Mabry, offensive tackle
No. 57: Trevor Ruhland, veteran backup offensive lineman
No. 57: Jayson Ademilola, defensive tackle
No. 56: John Dirksen, offensive lineman
No. 56: Howard Cross, incoming freshman defensive lineman, consensus four-star
No. 55: Jarrett Patterson, starting center
No. 55: Ja’Mion Franklin, defensive tackle returning from injury
No. 54: Jacob Lacey, consensus four-star defensive tackle, early enrollee
No. 54: John Shannon, long snapper
No. 53: Khalid Kareem, senior defensive end
No. 52: Zeke Correll, consensus four-star center, early enrollee
No. 52: Bo Bauer, linebacker, sophomore
No. 47: Kofi Wardlow, junior defensive end
No. 45: Jonathan Jones, senior inside linebacker
No. 44: Jamir Jones, senior defensive end
No. 42: Julian Okwara, senior defensive end
No. 41: Kurt Hinish, junior defensive tackle
No. 40: Drew White, junior inside linebacker
No. 39: Jonathan Doerer, junior kicker
No. 35: TaRiq Bracy, sophomore cornerback
No. 35: Marist Liufau, Hawaiian freshman linebacker
No. 34: Jahmir Smith, sophomore running back
No. 34: Osita Ekwonu, inside linebacker, consensus four-star
No. 33: Shayne Simon, sophomore linebacker
No. 31: Jack Lamb, sophomore linebacker
No. 30: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, junior linebacker
No. 29: Ovie Oghoufo, sophomore linebacker-turned-defensive end
No. 27: J.D. Bertrand, consensus four-star linebacker
No. 25: Braden Lenzy, speedy sophomore receiver
No. 24: Tommy Tremble, sophomore tight end
No. 24: Jack Kiser, early-enrolled freshman linebacker, Mr. Indiana Football
No. 23: Litchfield Ajavon, four-star safety, freshman
No. 23: Kyren Williams, early-enrolled freshman running back
No. 22: Kendall Abdur-Rahman, quarterback-turned-receiver, freshman
No. 22: Asmar Bilal, the only returning starting linebacker
No. 21: Jalen Elliott, three-year starting safety
No. 20: Shaun Crawford, defensive back returning from yet another injury
No. 20: C’Bo Flemister, sophomore running back
No. 19: Jay Bramblett, freshman punter
No. 19: Justin Ademilola, sophomore defensive end
No. 18: Joe Wilkins, sophomore receiver
No. 18: Nana Osafo-Mensah, freshman defensive end, consensus four-star
No. 17: Isaiah Robertson, junior receiver
No. 16: K.J. Wallace, freshman defensive back, three-star
No. 15 Isaiah Rutherford, freshman defensive back, consensus four-star
No. 15: Phil Jurkovec, sophomore quarterback
No. 14: Kyle Hamilton, freshman safety, consensus four-star
No. 13: Lawrence Keys, sophomore receiver
No. 13: Paul Moala, sophomore safety-turned-linebacker
No. 12: DJ Brown, sophomore cornerback-turned-safety