Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book has been statistically productive the last two seasons, both as a passer and a runner. He’s also 20-3 as a starting quarterback, but for Book to be more than a late-round draft pick his game will need to improve in 2020.
Stats: 6,118 pass yards, 63.5 comp. %, 57 TDs, 17 INT - 1,032 rush yards, 8 TDs
NFL Comparison: Trace McSorley, Baltimore Ravens
Round Projection: Round 5-7
Experience: Assuming he stays healthy, Book will finish his Notre Dame career with at least 36 starts, and there are a lot of high-leverage games in there. Book has played in a road game at USC with a College Football Playoff berth on the line, he played in a CFP game, he’s played at Georgia in a battle of Top 10 teams, he’s played at Michigan, he’ll play in Lambeau Field against Wisconsin, etc.
He didn’t often play well in those moments, at least up to this point, but I’m sure Notre Dame hopes the experience the past two seasons will help him play better in them in 2020. But that experience will certainly benefit him.
Production: Book already has 7,150 yards of total offense, and again, assuming good health in 2020 he’ll finish his career with over 10,000 total yards. He also has 65 total touchdowns, and if he repeats his 2019 campaign he’ll finish his career with over 100 total touchdowns. That is certainly a positive working in Book’s favor, and he’ll have played in a lot of wins for the Irish.
Athleticism: One area that should attract teams to Book is his athletic ability. He has quick feet, he’s agility and he has impressive speed. Book must improve his running instincts, but when he’s making good decisions and staying poised in the pocket he can do major damage with his legs. Not only can Book be a chain mover, if he gets a crease he can rip off long runs.
Arm Strength: No, Book does not have a cannon for an arm, at least not the kind you see in upper level draft picks. But I think his lack of arm strength is overplayed, and Book has shown the physical ability to make the majority of the throws needed to play at the next level.
The impressive part about this throw isn’t the distance it travels, its that he did it without having to exert himself too much. He made a couple of really impressive seam throws against Georgia and made an impressive deep drag throw to Chris Finke against Virginia. The number of these impressive throws is small (see below), but you don’t accidentally make a throw like the one he made above to Lenzy. If you can do that once, you can do that regularly, at least from a physical standpoint.
Book also has a quick release, which only accelerates how quickly the ball gets to the wideout. His arm strength and size will likely keep him from ever being a top of the draft player, but it’s good enough to make a lot of NFL throws. It’s certainly strong enough to make all the throws in the Notre Dame offense.
Pocket Presence/Poise: Book has the foot quickness and athleticism to be effective in the pocket, but he needs to make a lot of improvement from a footwork and poise standpoint. He is too hurried with his footwork in the pocket, and it often causes him to rush through his reads. There have been a high number of instances where Book’s eyes saw an opening but his feet were not in a place where he could quickly plant and get the throw off.
Book often gets rushed in the pocket, and he often runs himself into trouble. He had a line that was quite effective in protection last season, but Book didn’t work in the pocket like a guy with a strong pass blocking line. To take his game to the next level he must find a better rhythm in the pocket, show more poise, play with better anticipation/timing and play with more confidence in himself and his line.
Decision Making: Book needs to show significant improvement with his presnap and post-snap reads and decision making. There are simply too many snaps where he doesn’t properly read the defense’s pre-snap alignment, and he’ll lock onto certain receivers far too frequently. Book also needs to do a better job finding the right matchups that he should attack.
If Book can improve in these two areas he’ll be far more effective. You might not notice it from his numbers, but he’ll make a lot more impactful throws.
Part of being a good decision maker is knowing when to be more aggressive. Book often seems unwilling to make tighter window throws, even when he has a massive tight end and big wide receiver with elite catch radiuses and the ability to make contested throws. There are a lot of plays to be made in the Irish pass game, but Book needs to show more guts and moxey, especially when attacking the middle of the field.
Big game performance: Book has not been very good in the majority of the big games he’s played at Notre Dame. He’ll need to be better in those moments in 2020 if he wants to impress NFL teams and move up draft boards.
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