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Senior Bowl Evaluation: Notre Dame QB Ian Book

Breaking down the Senior Bowl performance of former Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book through the first two practices.

Quarterback Ian Book is one of six former Notre Dame players that is participating at the Reese’s Senior Bowl. Book and the rest of the national team are now two practices into prep for Saturday’s game.

After going through every team, 7-on-7 and 1-on-1 rep for Book, here is my analysis of his performance through the first two days.

PRACTICE 1

Book is on the National team with Sam Ehlinger (Texas) and Feleipe Franks. I graded Book’s performance out better than both of them.

1 ON 1

The first portion of 1-on-1s for Book was with him throwing to running backs and tight ends against linebackers and safeties.

I had Book down at 5-9 during this period with one drop.

He missed on a wheel route that I graded as well thrown and well placed, but the back slowed up and didn’t play the ball well in the air. He also missed on a well thrown corner route that again saw the tight end slow down when he looked back, which resulted in the ball hitting off his fingertips. Both were incompletions, but both were also well thrown balls by Book that were played poorly.

Book’s other miss was on a route where the tight end got jammed and was not open. Book threw the ball relatively well during this period, and my only criticism of his performance was he was high on two in cuts, but overall his timing and ball placement were solid.

Next, Book went to a 1-on-1 with the wide receivers matched up against cornerbacks. I had Book going 3-7 during this period with one dropped pass and two routes that were extremely well covered. He also was way short on a deep comeback route that he rushed a bit with his feet, which meant he didn’t drive off his back foot and it caused the ball to die well short of the wideout.

Book’s first two completions were impressive. The first was on a deep drag route where Book threw the ball on time and led the receiver across the field with good velocity. His second completion was a perfectly placed back shoulder deep throw that went for a 40-yard touchdown. Not only did he get the ball on the proper outside shoulder location, his release was effortless and the ball got on the wideout in a hurry (there was no hang).

There were some obvious first-day issues here with the quarterbacks and receivers getting on the same page, but Book graded out well with his velocity, timing and ball placement for much of the session.

7 ON 7

Book was a perfect 4-4 during this period, and it was his best session of the day.

On the first snap, Book recognized soft coverage with hard sinking linebackers, so when he hit the top of his drop he immediately went down to the back on a check down to pick up four easy yards.

On the next snap, Book had a 2x2 wide receiver alignment. He first read left and saw three defenders over his two receivers so he immediately came back to his right and hit the In cut that was working back into his line of sight from the right. If I am being picky the ball was a split second late, but overall he showed good timing, and Book fit the ball between two defenders for the completion of about 17 yards.

On the next snap, the tight end and receiver were both slow off the ball and were late getting to their top ends, so when Book got to the top of his drop and gathered they weren’t close to being ready, so he hit the check down quickly and accurate to the outside for an easy nine yards.

On the final snap, Book made a strong presnap read against a Cover 2 look against a 2x2 alignment. The cornerback turned his back to Book and the tight end had the linebacker out-leveraged by several yards, so Book knew he wanted the tight end. As soon as the tight end hit his inside step to go out, Book snapped the ball off and placed it perfectly in the window for a 13-yard gain. It was a strong read, he got the ball out with ideal timing and it was an accurate throw.

Book out-played Ehlinger and Franks pretty dramatically in these limited 7-on-7 reps. His ball placement was much better, his arm appeared stronger on film than Ehlinger - which wasn’t surprising - and his accuracy and ball placement were far better than Franks.

TEAM

Book had two muffed snaps during the team period. The first was under center and it looked as though Book dropped the ball. The second was on the center, and Book showed off his athleticism to even make the catch. He couldn’t get the ball to the back, so instead of trying to force a handoff he simply got behind the back and tried to get positive yards.

Book went 2-3 throwing the ball during the team period. He was late going to a play-action check down on his first attempt, which allowed the pressure to get into his face and forced an off-target throw and an incompletion.

He completed his next two throws and both were outstanding.

The first was a throw Book struggled to make many times at Notre Dame. He dropped back and saw the outside pressure, so Book stepped into the pocket (climb the pocket) and snapped the ball off downfield to former Wake Forest receiver Sage Surratt for about a 35-yard gain. It was a perfectly placed back shoulder throw that only Surratt had a chance to make a play on (defender had no chance), and the placement allowed Surratt to make the catch in bounds.

His next throw was also a back shoulder, this time to his left. Book snapped the ball off and threw it with good timing to Nico Collins (Michigan) for the completion. The ball was more inside than it should have been, but because Book threw the ball with velocity and got it out quickly (timing) the defender didn’t have time to make a play on the ball.

DAY 1 WRAP UP

It was a quality first day for Book. He had some expected off-target throws, but he also attacked down the field during the team period and showed good ball placement for much of the practice. He threw effortlessly and showed NFL teams he can throw the intermediate routes with good velocity and can hit the back shoulder throws with accuracy.

PRACTICE TWO

7 ON 7

I had Book going 3-4 during this session.d

On his first rep, Book had a curl-flat concept with a tight end running an option route over the middle. The flat defender (LB) immediately dropped under the curl. Book could have (and probably should have) taken the flat route to the back, who was wide open in the flats.

While I’d probably ding him for that the read, the throw he made was strong. After seeing the curl taken away by the outside linebacker, Book looked inside and saw the MLB getting depth to the read side, so Book came to the tight end and fit the ball in a small window between two defenders. I would have liked to see the ball come out a split second sooner, but I liked the guts and his willingness to fit the ball into a tight window, and the result was a 10-yard gain.

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On the next snap the offense was running the slot receiver in a 2x2 alignment on a middle sit route and then bringing the running back on a seam route right behind him. The nickel stayed outside, which meant it was a zone and he was in place to defend the back on the seam, so Book came to the check down for about a 3-yard gain. It wasn’t a sexy play, but it was the correct read and it netted positive yards.

Rep threw saw the defense showing a clear Cover 1, which meant press coverage on the outside and just one safety deep. Book made the correct read and threw a deep go route to former teammate Ben Skowronek from the far hash. Skowronek had the defender beat but Book’s throw was short, which forced Skowronek to attempt a back shoulder catch, which he could not haul in. The back shoulder was well placed, but this was a ball Book needed to throw about 5-yards deeper to complete.

His next rep was a check down slide throw to a back after the defender jumped under the smash concept.

1 ON 1

The first session of 1on1s was running backs and tight ends against linebackers and safeties. I had Book going 7-8 during the session, missing on his first throw and then hitting his next seven.

Book was late and long with his first attempt, a corner route to a tight end who also fell down on the rep. He heated up after that.

On his next rep he hit running back Michael Carter (North Carolina) up the seam for a long touchdown. Carter beat the linebacker by at least two steps, and Book snapped the ball off over top with good velocity, hit Carter on his outside shoulder and hit him in stride, which meant the RB didn’t have to slow down to make the catch, which allowed him to outrun the defender into the end zone.

Book’s next most impressive rep of the period came four plays later when he threw a deep corner route to the tight end Josh Bates (Boise State). Book’s timing on the throw was ideal, his accuracy was perfect (in stride, over the top to the front shoulder) and by leading the receiver he kept the safety from catching up before the tight end got into the end zone. It was a top notch NFL throw, and Book didn’t have to really dig deep to get the ball downfield, which is what scouts will want to see.

His other five completions were on short throws to backs.

Up next came the wide receivers versus corners portion of the 1on1s. I had Book going 3-6 during this period with two throws falling incomplete due to wideouts getting blanketed.

Book’s first attempt was a go route to Skowronek that was just a bit long, as the two attempted to connect on a back shoulder.

The next throw was one of Book’s best thus far, as he hit wideout D’Wayne Eskridge (Western Michigan) on a deep corner route to beat Ambry Thomas (Michigan) for a big gain. There were two impressive parts of the throw, with the first being the fact Book threw the ball as soon as Eskridge got to the top of his drop, which allowed Eskridge to catch the ball in bounds. A NFL quarterbacks coach will work with Book to throw the ball even sooner, but relative to where he was at Notre Dame this was a welcome sight. Book’s ball placement was also right where it needed to be.

Skowronek got jammed on an under route and Book tried to fit it in, but it was broken up. He also threw a comeback route to Collins that was well under thrown, but the wideout was covered easily. Book also competed a quick out to a slot and hit a slant route, proving that he can, in fact, throw and complete a slant route (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

TEAM

Book’s first throw during team was complete on a middle route to the tight end. It was a perfectly read throw on a mesh concept. The linebackers jumped the two crossing routes (mesh) from the wideouts, and the tight end came open behind them on the middle route, and Book hit him for a 10-yard gain.

Again, Book’s anticipation and read was faster than what it was at Notre Dame, but there is still a level of anticipation he must get to at the NFL level, and this throw was an example. It’s progress, and that’s the good part.

Book’s next throw almost got picked off, as he tried to aim a back shoulder throw to Dez Fizpatrick (Louisville) instead of reading the wideouts leverage and throwing the ball deep. This was the second time Book made this mistake, and it's something he’ll need to correct. When the wideout has the kind of step that Fitzpatrick had, and against a 1-high safety look, this ball needs to be launched, but instead Book aimed it and tried to go back shoulder.

I didn’t like Book’s presnap read on his next throw. The offense was running a play-action look and he had a backside post-corner route, but there was just one wideout and two defenders to the side. The better read would have been to his right, where he had better numbers and leverage. Book wisely didn’t force the corner and instead stepped into the pocket and scrambled, although he might have been sacked by former teammates Adetokunbo Ogundeji on the play if he wasn’t wearing a red jersey.

Book also likely would have been sacked on the next play when his right tackle got whipped and the defensive end came off virtually unblocked.

Book threw behind his wideout on a deep in cut on his next rep, but his receiver made an impressive grab and it went for a 16-yard gain. The throw was off target but I did like that Book stepped into the pocket and took a downfield chance. Give your receivers a chance to make a play and they just might reward you.

ANALYSIS THROUGH TWO DAYS

Book has shown that he can get good velocity on intermediate throws and can hit deep throws like corners, seams and back shoulders. He missed two huge opportunities to show he can throw the ball over the top of a defense when he tried to hit back shoulders instead of launching the ball. If he gets that chance in practice number three he needs to take it, because right now that’s still the big question out there about him.

What he has done, however, is compete and show good accuracy, good ball placement and better timing than he ever showed during his last two seasons at Notre Dame. His timing reminds me of the version of Ian Book we saw early in the 2018 season.

It’s been a good first two days for Book, there’s no question about that.

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