Notre Dame and QB Brandon Wimbush a good fit

Bob Wieneke
South Bend Tribune

During last Saturday night’s Notre Dame-Florida State game, Rich Hansen, the head football coach at powerful St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City, N.J., received a text from his star quarterback, senior Brandon Wimbush.

“And he said, ‘Coach, it’s really weird watching Notre Dame play,’” Wimbush wrote. “’It’s like watching us play.’”

Next year, all those parties merge in a sense as Wimbush will be in the midst of his freshman season. Wimbush earlier this month flipped his commitment from Penn State to Notre Dame, the similar styles between St. Peter’s Prep and ND a driving force.

“It definitely was discussed on their end, and it definitely was discussed on my end,” Hansen said. “I’m not sure who drove it harder, but I just think a comfort level that great is very, very important. I think it played a pretty big role in his thought process.”

That’s not to say that Wimbush’s transition from high school power to college power will be entirely seamless. There are areas of growth that Hansen knows will be needed, chief among them is Wimbush being willing to exercise his vocal cords a bit more, in terms of becoming a vocal leader.

“He gets to that next level, there’s a lot of opportunities for spirited discussions, to get it right,” Hansen said. “He has to understand that that’s part of the job.”

Hours before Notre Dame played Florida State, the coach began to see Wimbush moving in the direction of a vocal leader. It came during their game after a couple of Wimbush’s receivers messed up their routes in the red zone, which caused for some bad-looking throws. That in turn caused Wimbush, to Hansen’s delight, to express his displeasure.

“He was loud and boisterous, and (said) exactly what he wanted from them,” Hansen said. “It’s the first time he’s ever been that way. It really was. He actually told one of the receivers, ‘Shut up and run it unless I change it. What can’t you understand?’"

Wimbush’s willingness to be loud earned loud praise from Hansen during his postgame speech.

“I said, 'The thing that makes me most happy today is that Brandon Wimbush yelled at his receivers. I never thought I’d live to see the day,'" Hansen said. "He’s not hard enough on the guys that work for him. He needs to be able to express himself more to the receivers, in particular in this case, or the offensive line for protection; to be a little bit more boisterous, a little bit more demanding with those guys.

“He’ll just keep playing through everything and won’t be very vocal with the guys around him. That’s something that people misunderstand. A lot of times we put a lot of eggs in our basket for what we call leadership. He’s a leader. He’s just not hard on guys around him. He needs to become more of that. All of a sudden he was that, and I was like, 'Wow, that’s awesome.'”

Landing Wimbush, particularly the timing of it considering most of the star quarterbacks have already been plucked away, is considered an awesome catch for the ND staff.

Notre Dame didn’t become involved with Wimbush until after the season started. The Irish, nearly a year ago, landed a commitment from Blake Barnett, ranked one of the top QBs in the country. But Barnett later backed out of that pledge and picked Alabama.

Wimbush had been committed to Penn State. The four-star recruit, ranked the No. 69 overall player by 247 and the No. 65 player by Rivals, made an official visit to ND earlier this month for the Stanford game. He flipped to the Irish a few days later.

Physically, Wimbush appears to be college-ready, at least in terms of arm strength. Hansen offered that it’s one of the strongest arms he’s seen on a 17-year-old.

“The guy can really deliver the football. He’s got a great arm and the ball just flies out of his hands,” said 247Sports director of recruiting Steve Wiltfong. "He’s going to be able to make every throw. The accuracy is still evolving. Now, he’s only been playing football for three years, so he’s still fine-tuning his game. Just from a raw talent standpoint, he has very high upside.”

Wimbush’s arm isn't his only asset. Also, he can make things happen with his legs.

“He does the one thing that you can’t teach – he extends plays, he keeps plays alive; gives you a chance every time you snap the ball for something great to happen,” Hansen said. “You can have those guys that have good arms, have good feet, love the game and just make rotten decisions on the run. He’s not one of those guys.”

And then there’s Wimbush’s size, which Hansen says is 6-foot-2½, 215 pounds.

“The first thing people say is, 'I didn’t realize how big he was,'" said Hansen. "He looks like a linebacker, but he’s so fluid and athletic. It’s kind of weird because he really doesn’t remind me of any one quarterback we’ve had or that I’ve seen.

“He’s different in a lot of ways.”

A similarity in the offense he runs in high school and the one at Notre Dame was a reason why QB Brandon Wimbush picked the Irish. (Photo courtesy of Student Sports)