Notebook: Kelly says QB Ian Book on track to start for Notre Dame against Syracuse

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — While sitting out Saturday night’s 42-13 romp over Florida State with a rib injury, Notre Dame No. 1 quarterback Ian Book managed to make some statistical progress of sorts.

More importantly, the junior has made some medical progress.

Sunday, during Irish coach Brian Kelly’s Sunday wrap-up teleconference, he confirmed his earlier notion that Book will be third-ranked ND’s starting quarterback Saturday at Yankee Stadium against No. 12 Syracuse (8-2) and that Book is expected to practice Tuesday, the next time the Irish (10-0) do so as a team.

“There were stages of evaluation that he's been going through, so this was just another step in that evaluation process that needed to be clicked off, if you will, through our team doctors,” Kelly said.

Senior Brandon Wimbush, ND’s starter the first three games of the season, stepped in and started against the Seminoles. He completed 12 of 25 passes for 130 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions.

Wimbush also contributed heavily to an Irish rushing attack that ran for a season-high 365 yards against FSU (4-6). His 68 yards on 12 carries were the most by more than double by an opposing QB against the Seminoles this season.

Irish senior running back Dexter Williams’ 202 yards (on 20 carries with 2 TDs) was the first time a player cracked the 200-yard rushing mark on the Florida State defense since 1982. As a team, the Irish didn’t have a single negative-yard rushing play in 50 carries.

Williams won’t be eligible to be included among the NCAA stat leaders until after the USC game on Nov. 24, but his rushing yards per game (128.3) would rank fifth, and his yards per carry (6.8) would be 13th.

Book is eligible for the national stats, and he maintained his status as the nation’s leader in completion percentage (.745), while moving up a couple of spots in pass-efficiency to fourth nationally (170.0).

Only Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray (212.9), Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa (209.7) and West Virginia’s Will Grier (180.7) are ahead of him.

Coleman resurfaces

After starting 12 games at safety in 2017 and projecting to have at least a significant role this season in the nickel package, senior Nick Coleman evolved into an afterthought of sorts.

Until Saturday night.

In his first start of the season, at nickel back, Coleman recorded his first career interception to set up ND’s first score of the game against Florida State. He also had a tackle and a pass breakup in his first extensive game action since week 2.

“One of the guys that we highlighted in terms of who played really, really well was Nick Coleman.,” Kelly said. “You know, we needed to make some more plays at that position. We wanted to give a veteran guy, who has played a lot of football, the opportunity to go in there against a very talented group.

“And Nick was who we chose, because of his experience. He lived up to it. That's the best game he's played in quite some time, and really happy for him.”

And Coleman, it appears, will be the No. 1 option at nickel moving forward, with freshman Houston Griffith rotating in at times. Griffith had struggled while holding down the position for most of the season, with All-America candidate Julian Love moving inside from his boundary cornerback position at times to help out.

“Houston came in and gave (Coleman) a blow and did some good things,” Kelly said. “And I think we found out the right kind of rotation there, that Nick will get the bulk of the work.”

The Irish moved up three spots, to No. 6 nationally, in pass-efficiency defense after the FSU game and are a little more than a single ratings point out of second place. The highest ND has finished in that stat category at season’s end, since it became an official NCAA statistic in 1991, is 10th.

Squibs

• Irish junior cornerback Julian Love was on the sidelines late in the FSU game after collecting nine tackles, breaking up his 14th pass of the season (tied for sixth nationally) and returning a blocked PAT for a defensive two-point conversion.

“Cleared to have gone back in the game,” Kelly said. “It was a coach's decision not to put him back in.”

• By playing in his fifth game of the season, Saturday night against FSU, freshman safety Paul Moala from Penn High has exceeded the limit of four games to keep a redshirt year alive.

He joins defensive tackle Jayson Ademilola, wide receiver Kevin Austin, linebacker Bo Bauer, nickel Houston Griffith and rover/linebacker Shayne Simon as freshmen who definitely won’t redshirt for ND in 2018.

• Senior offensive guard Trevor Ruhland sat out the entire game Saturday as a precautionary measure, according to Kelly. Junior Tommy Kraemer got the start. At right guard.

“He had an elbow strain,” Kelly said. “And we wanted to be very careful with him, because he's a guy that fills in a couple of positions — guard and center. So we were very conservative with him.

“Our doctors feel really good that we can get him back into the rotation, so we'll see how he practices this week and kind of go from there.”

• Notre Dame ran its first offensive play Saturday night with four tight ends and zero wide receivers in the starting lineup. One of those tight ends, senior Alizé Mack, ended up getting the game ball.

Mack had three catches for 29 yards and two TDs, a week after missing the Northwestern game with a concussion.

Notre Dame QB Ian Book (12) sat out ND's 42-13 win over Florida State, Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium, with a rib injury.