Emerging Notre Dame QB Wimbush says last year 'unacceptable'

AP photo/Becky MalewitzNotre Dame Brandon Wimbush runs drills during spring football practice on March 22.

NOTRE DAME — The tangible body of work for Brandon Wimbush reads like this: two games, five pass attempts, 17 passing yards, one rushing touchdown … not exactly an extensive college quarterbacking resumé.

In fact, the 6-2, 226-pound junior hasn't taken a snap, called a play or thrown a meaningful pass at Notre Dame since he was a true freshman in 2015 — all of which provides limited data, at best, as to whether Wimbush is the proper piece to turn fortunes for the Irish this season.

But stats and experience aside, when the poise and confidence Wimbush shows are applied along with the eye test through this spring season, the Irish look to be in steady and talented hands in the fall as they try to wash away the mold and memory of a 4-8 season in 2016.

"What we went through," Wimbush said, "and we don't like to talk about it, was very unacceptable for the standards that we have set here."

Wimbush is making his quick evolution from scout team to first team look easy, but his journey has been anything but.

Looking back now, it took a village to raise a quarterback — everyone from parents, coaches, friends and fans —- and keep a restless Wimbush interested and engaged when there was no game-day payoff for all the practice work he put in as a redshirt sophomore last season.

"It took a lot of self-talk and self-confidence to be able to go out there weekly for 15 weeks and grind your butt off and work with the guys and get yelled at, but it was all worth it," Wimbush recalled. "Sometimes you've got to go through some struggles to be where you want to be at the end of the day."

The last two years were difficult on Wimbush, and expectedly so. Going from one of the best high school players in the country — rated no lower than sixth nationally among dual-threat quarterback prospects from the class of 2015 — to waiting his turn behind alpha males DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire on the Irish depth chart was hard to accept, given that Wimbush could've immediately started at most other schools in the country.

All the way from the end of last season, through holiday break and into the new year, Wimbush had no idea where he stood on the QB hierarchy until Kizer announced he would turn pro and Zaire decided to leave the Irish program via the grad transfer route.

But even through all the impatience and uncertainty, Wimbush remained committed to Notre Dame, worked hard and vowed to stay ready in the only way he knows.

"If you're always prepared, you don't have to get prepared," Wimbush said of this unexpected path to starter opening up almost overnight. "I wish the best to each of them (Kizer and Zaire), and I am very excited for this opportunity."

In the same way his Irish coaches and teammates are excited to have him.

Even as Wimbush was buried on the depth chart during his first two years here, many football analysts continually insisted he had the highest upside of any signal caller on the Irish roster, both from a cerebral and a talent standpoint.

"He's poised," Irish junior wide receiver Miles Boykin said of Wimbush. "I think having that poise and having that calmness about him, it lets the team be more loose and relaxed, and lets us play without worrying about making a mistake."

And new Notre Dame quarterbacks coach Tom Rees believes Wimbush is holding up well to the enormity of the challenge.

"He's taking a bunch of steps mentally throughout the spring," Rees said. "Physically you see the talent there, and it's our job to make sure that he's having consistent days putting everything together. But from a maturity standpoint and a standpoint of really grasping everything, he's been outstanding."

Todd Burlage is a freelance columnist covering Notre Dame sports.

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