Ian Book Talks NFL Draft Prep, His Replacement, Notre Dame Career
Ian Book’s pre-draft process has taken him from Jacksonville to Mobile, Ala., to suburban Dallas and now back to South Bend as he prepares for his Notre Dame Pro Day March 31. He and 13 former Irish teammates will work out in what’s likely their last (and for some, their only) opportunity to perform in front of NFL evaluators in person.
The ex-Notre Dame quarterback and record holder spoke with BlueandGold.com earlier this month and reflected on his Notre Dame career, his draft process and who might succeed him at one of the most visible positions in college athletics.
Tell us about the Notre Dame experience in reality for you. What were some things you didn’t expect, things you weren’t told in the recruiting process?
“Everything was true except for one thing. The four-for-40, it’s true. You wear the monogram anywhere you go, someone is going to say something. The Notre Dame family lasts a long time.
The one thing I wasn’t told was they told me to visit in the summer. It was nice weather, everything was good. I’m coming from California and I didn’t know it was the worst weather ever. They got me on that one [laughs]. But you buy a coat and some boots and you’re good.
“But truly, the four-for-40, everything they told me about coming in and competing and that nothing is given to you, it’s all true. It’s four hard years of your life and it can set you up for the next 40. It’s definitely true.”
Notre Dame goes out and gets Jack Coan, Wisconsin quarterback as a grad transfer. Then after him, you have Brendon Clark, Drew Pyne and of course Tyler Buchner. Clark, you spent a couple years with. Pyne, you spent a year with. What do fans need to know about those guys?
“Brendon Clark, first off, just loves football. He’s just a tough guy. he’s willing to do anything. He used to joke around saying, ‘I’ll do anything — run down on kickoffs, whatever.’ Just a gritty guy. He can make plays. He was on scout team the year before that, and all he did was make plays. We used to watch his scout clips, and he can extend the pocket and has a heck of an arm.
“Drew Pyne, he came in and embraced the playbook. He’s a smart kid. He learned everything. He was up there every night, late at night, studying with me and coach Rees because he wanted to get that next step. He’s really serious about trying to be the next starter at Notre Dame. It’s going to be a hell of a competition between all those guys. Drew’s really good technically, really good footwork. He spins the ball. He has a really pure motion.
“Excited for Jack to come into Notre Dame. He has played some ball, has some reps under him. He has that leadership ability. I know Tyler Buchner as well. I’ve thrown with him. He’s by far one of the best high schoolers I’ve ever thrown with. He’s going to come in there and challenge those guys too. I haven’t spent too much time with him where I know everything, but I know strictly from throwing, he was better than I was in high school.”
At receiver, it feels like there are a lot of talented names in the room, but your most proven receiver is Avery Davis. He caught 24 passes last season. Who do you really feel like might explode this season?
“He’s one of those guys who has played four positions, doesn’t complain, works hard. Hard not to like a kid like that, especially as a quarterback. He was somebody I had a ton of respect for. He’s willing to do anything. He will play outside, play inside. I felt like he really found his spot playing inside.
“He’s smart. He knows where to go, find the green grass and settle down. He kind of thinks like a quarterback as a receiver, and that’s a plus. He understands what I’m looking for, where my reads are. He understands where to be at the right time. His confidence is only growing. I expect him to do good things and just be a leader.
“Everyone’s due for a breakout year, with [Lawrence] Keys and Joe [Wilkins]. Those guys should really be able to take the next step in their games. They’re veterans now in this receiving corps. They’re meant to go out and make big plays like they have done their entire lives.
“Kevin Austin, he’s a big-play receiver, he’s different. He can go up and get the 50/50 balls. We’ve had a guy like that for a long time. We had Chase [Claypool], Miles [Boykin] and Ben [Skowronek]. Now, it’s open. Someone needs to take it. I think that’s Kevin Austin. The whole room is veterans now, they’re all in a certain spot. All of them are due to have a big year.”
In 2015, Notre Dame brought in Brandon Wimbush at quarterback. Then 2016 was you, 2017 was Avery Davis, then 2018 of course Phil Jurkovec. I feel like a lot of people are looking at that and it’s like, ‘All right, you have Wimbush and then it’ll be Phil’s reign. Maybe Book won’t be the guy who gets a lot of playing time.’
Fast-forward to today, you have the most wins in program history. Hearing that, are you even surprised?
“I could’ve have done it without so many other people. But truly, it hasn’t hit yet. I feel like once I watch a Notre Dame game and seasons where I’m not there, it will hit and sink in. Just to be up there and be in any record book — the tradition of Notre Dame is a big reason I decided to go there — just to be mentioned with some of those guys. Like, Joe Montana went to Notre Dame. I have to think about that and take a step back once in a while.
“It’s a true honor. But I hope somebody beats it. I hope it’s one of the guys I played with.”
Looking back at the 2016 recruiting class, it has so many NFL guys. Who were some buddies and guys you really bonded with, maybe on an official visit and coming in as freshmen?”
“We got to Notre Dame in the summer, and I was like, ‘Hey, let’s throw.’ The first guy I grabbed was Chase Claypool, and he wanted to do one-on-ones, so it was him vs. Jalen Elliott. We just went in the indoor [facility] and got pretty aggressive. I remember everyone was talking trash, getting aggressive. I remember thinking these guys were really good. Jalen was playing corner guarding Chase, Chase was running routes from the slot and outside.
“Then the linemen who showed up — I remember a reporter asked me who I thought would be the best player in the class. I just said Liam Eichenberg. He looks like a psycho. Next thing you know, he’s going to be a high draft pick. It’s going to be cool to see where they end up. There are already a few out there.
“We did a lot. It took a lot of people, but this class changed the culture and now we have all these guys in the NFL. We were there when we went 4-8 and that was the first taste of college football for all of us.”
You got to go to the Senior Bowl in Mobile with a bunch of your teammates. What was that whole experience like?
“It was awesome. Because of COVID, you don’t know if you’re going to get in front of NFL scouts again. The Senior Bowl might be the only opportunity other than your pro day, and I don’t know if we’ll even be able to talk to them at our pro day. Then, just going out to compete with the best of the best. You hear about all these guys playing all over the country, then you get together in Mobile and just hang out and compete every day.
“The NFL staffs really challenged us. They gave us a lot of plays. They gave us the playbook late at night and we had practice early in the morning and had 30 plays right off the bat. It was cool they were challenging us and just a great experience. To be able to talk to scouts face-to-face could be really important coming down the line to the draft.”
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