Where does Ian Book rank among the quarterbacks in FBS football? Is he top 10? Top 5? Or is he outside the top 10 entirely?
To start 2019, Ian Book was seen as a sleeper pick to make a run at the Heisman Trophy. It made sense, the Notre Dame quarterback had just brought the Irish to the College Football Playoff, and would start the entire season in 2019. Then, the season kicked off and Book was quickly put on the back burner.
Still, it’s not like Ian Book had a bad season. He threw for 3,024 yards, 34 TDs, and only 6 INTs. Now, these numbers weren’t close to a player like Joe Burrow, but they’re still excellent. If there was a knock on Ian Book, it was that his accuracy dropped off, with his completion percentage dropping to 60.2%.
Add in the diminished running game, with more pressure to succeed, and it’s easy to see why Book’s season, while excellent, didn’t meet expectations.
So, now, the question remains, just how good is Ian Book? Is he a top-10 quarterback? Joe Burrow certainly wasn’t in anyone’s mind at this time last season. A lot can change, but for now, let’s try to place Book.
After that, things become much cloudier. Texas’ Sam Ehlinger has had a similar career to Book. He played a few games in 2017, exploded on the scene in 2018 to the point that Texas was “back,” and followed up with a disappointing 2019. Ehlinger’s 2019 was disappointing, despite his stats improving. Ehlinger had more yards, and a higher completion percentage, but also more interceptions and fewer touchdowns than Book. That’s in the defenseless Big 12. Both quarterbacks are fairly mobile, with an edge to Ehlinger. The Texas rushing game gives Ehlinger a slight edge to Book.
Then there is the layer of rising stars at the quarterback position. This group is highlighted by Sam Howell, Kedon Slovis, Spencer Rattler, and Jayden Daniels. Now, the potential is nice, but Rattler has thrown 11 passes in college. That’s not enough to say what he truly is. Similarly, Daniels had a strong freshman campaign, and no one would be surprised if he took a big jump. However, to predict he’d jump past Book isn’t reasonable.
USC’s Kedon Slovis and North Carolina’s Sam Howell have stronger arguments. Slovis threw for over 3,500 yards and a 71.9% completion percentage. There’s no way around the fact that he was statistically better than Book. Add in Slovis’ talent at throwing a deep ball, and he’s a stud. Credit Book for having more experience, but Slovis does have the edge on him.
Howell, meanwhile, it could be argued had a better season than Slovis. His completion percentage was worse than Slovis (but better than Book’s in 2019), but he did throw for more yards, and touchdowns. The question for 2020 between Book and Howell is simple enough. Can Book raise his completion percentage to 2018 levels, without sacrificing 2019’s explosiveness? If that’s the case, and it should be, Book is still ahead of Howell.
A couple of players are entering new situations. Jamie Newman excelled at Wake Forest, and will now take on the challenge of getting Georgia over the hump in the SEC. KJ Costello will be in the SEC, instead of Stanford, and will run Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense at Mississippi State. D’Eriq King, meanwhile, will try to figure out how to turn around the stagnant Miami offense. Out of all those players, Newman has the most talent around him to get him to the next level. On the other hand, King’s an explosive player and was already excellent at Houston, so he should flourish.
Still, Book is better than those three quarterbacks.
There are a couple of Group of 5 quarterbacks who are also excellent. SMU’s Shane Buechele threw for nearly 4,000 yards and 34 touchdowns last season. Granted, it was in a pass-happy system, but that’s still impressive. UCF’s Dillon Gabriel put up 3,653 yards passing and 29 touchdowns. He’s going to take a jump next season, but a jump past Ian Book is unlikely.
This likely means that Ian Book is more than just a top 10 quarterback, but rather that he’s a top 5 quarterback.