Ian Book takes home MVP honors at Notre Dame's Echoes '18 Award Show

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — Typical Ian Book.

On a night when the spotlight grabbed him and wouldn’t let go, the Notre Dame junior quarterback’s foremost thoughts were about how he couldn’t wait to get back on the field Saturday for the first full Irish practice in preparation for their Dec. 29 College Football Playoff semifinal date with No. 2 Clemson (13-0).

Not that he wasn’t touched that his ND teammates had voted him the 2018 MVP of the third-ranked and unbeaten Irish (12-0).

“They played a video that had Joe Montana and all these people in it,” Book said at the Echoes ’18 Awards Show, Thursday night at the DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts on the ND campus.

“To be able to get the same award as them, it’s a dream come true. There are just so many people that helped me get to where I am today. Thinking about the team voting for me brings something more special to it. That’s why every day, I try to play hard for them.”

The 6-foot, 203-pound junior from El Dorado, Calif., who started the season as the No. 2 QB, not only played hard, but played at an elite level for the Irish.

Book heads into ND’s Cotton Bowl/CFP semifinal in Arlington, Texas, sixth nationally in completion percentage (.704) and eighth in passing efficiency (162.5). Both marks are on a trajectory to break Jimmy Clausen’s school records.

He threw for 2.468 yards and 19 TDs with six interceptions over eight starts, three relief appearances and a game when a rib injury reduced him to a cheerleader. He was named ND’s starter in week four, replacing senior incumbent Brandon Wimbush, who then became a big part of Book’s support system and stepped in for the injured Book against Florida State on Nov. 10.

“When I got the job, I tried to be the best leader possible,” Book said, “but at the same time, I didn’t try to take everything crazy serious. I tried to have fun out there with the guys and bring that spark, to the offense especially. And I’m glad that they see that in me.”

Nineteen other Irish players were honored individually at the 98th annual end-of-the-season awards program. Former two-time ND All-America lineman Aaron Taylor hosted the event, coming out in an ugly sweater that featured a Christmas goat with dental issues.

Perhaps the strangest award pairing went to Irish senior running back Dexter Williams — dubbed the Offensive Newcomer of the Year.

In some ways, there was a newness to Williams’ game in 2018 — in terms of completeness, in terms of being prolific, in terms of quickly putting a four-game, university-imposed suspension behind him quickly.

Williams had never carried the ball more than eight times in a game or 39 times in a season coming into this season. He heads into the Clemson game with 941 yards on 142 carries (6.6 average) and 12 TDs. If he had played in enough games to qualify for the NCAA stat leaders (75 percent), he would rank seventh nationally in rushing yards per game (117.6).

Last year’s Offensive Newcomer of the Year, quarterback Brandon Wimbush, won the Next Man In Award Thursday night.

He got some razzing, though, from QBs coach Tommy Rees for his layered denim outfit.

“Outside of his outfit choice, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better human being," Rees quipped.

A true newcomer, Navy transfer Alohi Gilman, was the Defensive Newcomer of the Year. The junior safety was ND’s Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year in 2017 during the season he had to sit out to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.

The finalist for Polynesian College Football Player of the Year started all 12 games at safety, making 76 tackles, three for loss, with three pass break-ups and two interceptions.

Senior wide receiver Miles Boykin and senior linebacker Te’von Coney were named offensive and defensive MVPs, respectively. Junior wide receiver Chase Claypool and junior defensive end Julian Okwara, were named the offensive and defensive impact players, respectively.

Notre Dame’s most decorated All-American so far, junior cornerback Julian Love, took home the “Back of the Year” award, a new one to the awards lineup.

Grad senior captain and linebacker Drue Tranquill won the Student-Athlete award for the second year in a row. After announcing at last year’s show that he would be coming back for a fifth year, he one-upped himself Thursday night.

Tranquill revealed that wife Jackie is pregnant with the couple’s first child. He also paid a touching tribute to Notre Dame superfan Keith Penrod.

The highlight of the night may have been a video of a skit several that several ND players put on, imitating the Irish coaches in a staff meeting.

Offensive guard Trevor Ruhland as offensive line coach Jeff Quinn, tight end Brock Wright as offensive coordinator Chip Long, cornerback Julian Love as cornerbacks coach Todd Lyght and nose guard Kirk Hinish as director of football performance Matt Balis had the crowd doubling over laughing.

Things get a bit more serious next week as the Notre Dame players take final exams. That’s after Saturday and Sunday practices this weekend.

Book is confident he can multitask the academic grind and pushing to get better to take on the nation’s No. 4 team in total defense in three weeks.

“Just not straying away from anything I’ve been doing,” Book said of his methodology for seemingly perpetual improvement. “Just keep doing the same thing every week — watching film, getting ready and just knowing the opportunity that we have .

“Every guy on our team is working extremely hard. We’re close, but we’re not here. I think that’s why we all have more fuel in us to keep going. We’ve got two more that we want to win.”

Award Winners

Rockne Student-Athlete: Drue Tranquill

Newcomer of the Year: Offense: Dexter Williams

Newcomer of the Year: Defense: Alohi Gilman

Scout Team Player of the Year: Offense – Mick Assaf

Scout Team Player of the Year: Defense – Ovie Oghoufo

Father Lange Iron Cross: Alex Bars

Irish Around the Bend: Nic Weishar

Moose Krause Lineman of the Year: Jerry Tillery

Pietrosante Award: Tyler Newsome

Offensive Lineman of the Year: Sam Mustipher

Special Teams Player of the Year: Justin Yoon

Back of the Year: Julian Love

Humble & Hungry Award: Jonathan Bonner

Offensive Player of the Year: Miles Boykin

Defensive Player of the Year: Te’von Coney

WOPU Player of the Year: Chris Finke

Impact Player on Offense: Chase Claypool

Impact Player on Defense: Julian Okwara

Next Man In: Brandon Wimbush

Most Valuable Player: Ian Book

Quarterback Ian Book is Notre Dame’s MVP.