Three-star QB Ian Book flips commitment to Notre Dame

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

There was a time when Ian Book imagined playing quarterback for Mike Sanford at Boise State. Now the three-star prospect will get a chance to do so at Notre Dame.

Book, a 6-foot-1, 195-pound recruit, announced his verbal commitment to Notre Dame late Tuesday night. But first, Book had to back out of his pledge to Washington State.

Book’s relationship with Sanford, now Notre Dame’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, started more than a year ago while Sanford was coaching at his alma mater. Sanford offered the El Dorado Hills, Calif., prospect a Boise State scholarship last September following a sophomore season in which Book threw for 2,558 yards and 30 touchdowns.

When Sanford left for Notre Dame in February, the two remained in contact at times. As Sanford was settling into his new role with the Irish, Book decided to give his verbal commitment to Washington State. Book planned to be a Cougar until Sanford started to push him to visit Notre Dame this summer.

"It all started with my relationship with coach Sanford,” Book said. “I really want to play for him. I really like him as a coach and as a person. He's been great to my family as well.”

That relationship was so strong that a trip to Notre Dame became part of Book’s family vacation plans. Following a two-week cruise in the Caribbean, Book’s family traveled from Miami to Chicago to South Bend before returning home to California. Book visited Notre Dame last Wednesday and received a scholarship offer from Irish head coach Brian Kelly.

“I went there and fell in love with it and fell in love with the coaching staff,” Book said. “Obviously, the football and the education speaks for itself.”

Less than a week later, Book decided it was time to flip his commitment. He spoke with Washington State head coach Mike Leach and assistant coach Graham Harrell to inform them of the bad news.

“I was really dreading that, honestly,” Book said. “I just tried to think of it as it's part of the business. It does happen. It's a hard thing to do. It definitely was a hard conversation.

“I think I caught them off guard a little bit. It's nothing Washington State didn't do. I committed to that school, because I liked that school as well. They were really respectful in the end. I hope there's no bad blood there.”

Notre Dame resorted to poaching a quarterback recruit for the fifth time in Kelly’s tenure with the Irish. Last year, Brandon Wimbush flipped his commitment from Penn State to Notre Dame in October.

Former Notre Dame quarterbacks Everett Golson (North Carolina), Gunner Kiel (Indiana and LSU) and Luke Massa (Cincinnati) were previously committed to other schools before joining the Irish.

Skipping a quarterback in the 2016 class — after missing out on the likes of Malik Henry (Florida State), Jacob Eason (Georgia), Shea Patterson (Ole Miss), Dwayne Haskins (Maryland) and Matt Fink (USC) — became a reasonable discussion for Irish recruiting forecasters. But with only three quarterbacks recruited as scholarship players on Notre Dame’s roster — Wimbush, DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire — the Irish would have taken a risk.

“That’s a low number,” said CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming. “You have to have at least four, so it’s a smart move. Notre Dame had to have someone this year just for depth purposes.”

Five-star quarterback Hunter Johnson of Brownsburg, Ind., remains the top target in the 2017 class. The Irish are believed to be one of his front-runners, along with Tennessee and Stanford.

Book, verbal commitment No. 14 in Notre Dame’s 2016 class, certainly doesn’t come with the hype of Wimbush, Kizer or Zaire, but he’s been a productive high school quarterback. His prolific numbers as a sophomore came in a 14-game season.

As a junior at Oak Ridge High School, Book completed 155 of his 248 passes (63 percent) for 2,025 yards and 18 touchdowns in 10 games.

“He has decent height and decent arm strength,” Lemming said. “He’s nothing spectacular, but he’s a good, efficient quarterback. In California, he’d rank as one of the top four quarterbacks in the state.”

Rivals ranks Book as the No. 18 pro-style quarterback in the 2016 class. 247Sports slates him No. 26 at the position.

Lemming labeled Book as a solid catch for Notre Dame at this point of the recruiting cycle. Most of the top quarterbacks in the country are already firmly committed to programs before their senior seasons. Sanford’s scouting will be put to the test in his first recruiting cycle with the Irish.

“This will be Mike Sanford’s guy,” Lemming said. “This is the guy he wanted. He was at Boise State last year, so he had all year to recruit out there. His stamp of approval is on it.”

In conversations with Sanford, Book said his future position coach identified four areas of strength in him: a thirst for competition, leadership, accuracy, and the ability to keep plays alive.

If Book’s decision to commit to Notre Dame shows anything, it could reflect his capacity to diagnose situations and make decisions quickly.

The abrupt nature of his flip, Book said, shouldn’t indicate any future indecision with his recruitment.

"It all did happen fast, but I had enough time to think about it with my family,” Book said. “It's definitely the right place. I'm not going anywhere else."

Below are junior highlights of Book via Hudl.

— Ian book (@ian_book23) August 5, 2015//

Three-star quarterback Ian Book flipped his commitment from Washington State to Notre Dame late Tuesday night. (Photo courtesy of Rivals)