Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer is off to the NFL, but the Fighting Irish should be in good hands with Brandon Wimbush.
With DeShone Kizer announcing that he is leaving Notre Dame early for the NFL Draft, the Fighting Irish will have a new starting quarterback in 2017.
Rising junior Brandon Wimbush, who was the third-team signal-caller during Notre Dame’s frustrating 4-8 season, is expected to be the clear-cut No. 1 option at the position with Kizer gone and Malik Zaire looking for a new home after deciding to transfer.
Notre Dame’s new quarterback took a redshirt in his sophomore season after throwing five passes and logging seven rushing attempts in two games in 2015, but his talent is unquestioned. One just has to watch his 58-yard touchdown run against UMass that year to see the type of athleticism that he brings to the position. He can be an electric player, and head coach Brian Kelly praised him as being “extremely talented” last spring.
The 6-1, 225-pound New Jersey native arrived in South Bend as a highly touted recruit, moreso than Kizer and Zaire, and he has impressed coaches and teammates with his strong arm, speed and toughness, as well as his maturity. Some of the biggest adjustments he’ll have to make in his new role are adjusting to the speed of the college game, improving his pocket presence and recognizing the variety of advanced defenses that are run across the nation.
Complicating his transition is the fact that he’ll have to do it under a new quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator.
Mike Sanford has reportedly been hired at Western Kentucky to be its next head coach, so the Irish will be losing one of the top offensive coordinators in the country. Sanford was instrumental in prepping Kizer start, and thrive, after Zaire was lost for the season in 2015. So his loss cannot be overstated.
In Wimbush’s favor, however, is the fact that Kelly has had a ton of success with quarterbacks throughout his career—including signal-callers with varying skill sets. He has also employed a number of OCs, such as Mike Denbrock, Matt LaFleur, Chuck Martin and Charley Molnar. Sometimes the hires worked, and sometimes they didn’t. We’ll see what route Kelly goes this time around, but expect him to be hands-on with Wimbush in what will be a very critical 2017 campaign. Taking back some of the offense with the loss of Sanford may actually benefit Kelly and ND.
The last eight quarterbacks to make their starting debuts under Kelly have all been victorious. That includes five at Notre Dame, from Dayne Crist to Kizer. Cincinnati quarterbacks Zach Collaros, Chazz Anderson and Tony Pike started the win streak. The only Kelly-coached quarterback at the FBS level to lose his first start was Central Michigan’s Dan LeFevour in 2006.
Wimbush could have started for many college football teams dating even back to last year, but he remained in South Bend, prepared as if he were the starter and did everything asked of him by the staff. Now it’s his turn to run an ND offense that will be looking for consistency and big plays in 2017.
While there is currently uncertainty on offense, Wimbush will enter the new year with more experience than Kizer had before the latter was thrown into the starting role last year. Plus, Kelly’s experience with quarterbacks bodes well for the new starter.
Not getting on the field may have been a bit frustrating for the one-time Penn State commit, but he’ll have his chance next fall to show off the skill set that made him an Elite 11 participant and a player that the coaching staff was thrilled to land on National Signing Day a few years ago.