Ian Book’s legs have become a weapon for the Notre Dame offense.
A dual threat quarterback makes a college offense exciting and deadly. Whether it is Michael Vick’s Virginia Tech, Marcus Mariota’s Oregon, Lamar Jackson’s Louisville, or McKenzie Milton’s UCF, the thing that made them all deadly was the threat’s those quarterback’s posed. They could light you up through the air, or on the ground. This left too much to defend. Notre Dame might have something like that right now.
No one is going to pretend Ian Book can run like them, but he is an athletic runner. He’s proved that recently, as Book has led the Notre Dame offense is rushing in every game after the Michigan disaster. That’s including the fact that sack yardage comes out of a quarterback’s rushing stats.
His whole career, Ian Book has run the ball more than you’d expect. That’s always been to his benefit — he can run, but nobody game-plans against his legs.
His running forces a linebacker to spy him. That takes said linebacker out of coverage, making for more open holes to throw in to. If not that, a defense may sit in zone to keep him from running, but Book has the ability to find open receivers against a zone’s soft spots.
Opponents need to respect guys like Chase Claypool and Cole Kmet. They need to cover, and often double cover those guys. This makes it hard to justify using a linebacker to spy Book. That’s when Book can use his legs to make defenses pay for not respecting him.
There’s been four games this season where Ian Book has led Notre Dame in rushing: New Mexico, Virginia Tech, Duke, and Navy. With the exception of the Virginia Tech game, Notre Dame’s offense dominated in those contests.
Furthermore, Book’s combined stats in those four games are 76 of 129 (59%), 1,161 yards, 16 TDs, and 4 INTs.
However, Book struggled to run against Georgia, Virginia, and Michigan. As a result, the offense became predictable and struggled to move the ball in those games. Two of those are also the games that Notre Dame lost.
In those games, Book’s statline looks like this; 54 of 97 (55%) 513 yards, 3 TDs, and 2 INTs. That’s pretty terrible, but it’s definitely noticeable how much worse Book is statistically as opposed to when he’s running well.
The Irish need to keep running Book. He’s exponentially better as a quarterback when Chip Long calls read options, and other designed quarterback runs. He’s better as a drop back passer when creating with his legs, instead of throwing check downs against the pass rush.
If Notre Dame keeps using Book to balance their offense, then the Irish will have no trouble with the rest of the regular season, and winning a New Year’s Six Bowl if they get that chance.