Ian Book is the type of quarterback who can give Georgia nightmares.
The defense can do everything right in terms of coverage, but Notre Dame’s quarterback prides his game on being a dual-threat. As each of the Bulldogs have their heads turned in search of receivers, Book can squirt away for a 20-yard gain.
How does Georgia going about containing a dual threat?
“If I was playing Madden,” Georgia safety J.R.Reed said, “I might spy (assign a defender to follow) him.”
He smiled. That’s Reed’s personal opinion. He doesn’t know what the coaching staff’s plan is, or maybe he won’t share any information and that’s understandable. Nevertheless, Book serves as one of Georgia’s steepest challenges as No. 7 Notre Dame comes to Athens for the country’s biggest game on Saturday (8 p.m., CBS).
Book is a dual-threat quarterback, and there are plenty of them within the game. Here’s the catch, though: Book doesn’t have to be one. He’s proficient enough in both to cause problems.
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart and his defensive coaches might finally think they have an efficient defensive package in place. Whether they do or not, Book’s talents can spoil it within a matter of seconds.
Georgia backup quarterback Stetson Bennett will emulate Book on scout team throughout the week.
“You had him for a sack or you had him for no gain, he turns it into a ten-yard gain,” Smart said. “He has a lot of explosive plays where he scrambles to throw and scrambles to run. He’s not a guy that just does one. It’s frustrating.”
Book doesn’t compare to the quarterbacks of Vanderbilt, Murray State or Arkansas State by a longshot. He’s arguably the best signal caller Georgia will face until Nov. 23 when Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond comes to town or in the SEC Championship — although that’s a major assumption, because Georgia would have to win the SEC East and either Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa or LSU’s Joe Burrow would have to claim the SEC West.
Book’s targets include receiver Chase Claypool and tight end Tommy Tremble — formerly a priority recruiting target for Georgia out of Wesleyan. Georgia showed another progression in its secondary against Arkansas State as cornerbacks Eric Stokes and Tyson Campbell had strong performances while playing together.
Campbell exited Saturday’s game with a lower leg injury. Smart said he “hopes” for Campbell to be OK for action against the Fighting Irish. Freshman Tyrique Stevenson and JUCO transfer DJ Daniel have rotated at the position, too.
“Tyson is gaining confidence so he’s able to teach those guys what he’s learned,” Reed said. “We’ve got so much depth that everyone’s competing to be better.”
Georgia defensive lineman David Marshall said Book reminds him a lot of his own quarterback, Jake Fromm. Book has what Fromm doesn’t show much of — a running ability. But Book and Fromm have a certain level of intelligence to read an opposing defense. They might know what’s coming from the other side, which can make it difficult for those working to contain them.
Fromm has 601 passing yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions through three games. He didn’t play four quarters against Murray State and Arkansas State. Book, only logging two games against Louisville and New Mexico, recorded 553 passing yards and six touchdowns. He has added 127 rushing yards and two touchdowns to those totals.
Reed gave a comparison to former Heisman trophy winner Johnny Manziel. Regardless of his comparison, he’s a weapon for the Fighting Irish. Georgia didn’t face him during its 2017 win in South Bend, other than one play when then-starter Brandon Wimbush left with an equipment issue.
Georgia hopes to contain Book. That’s a big key to how it walks out of Sanford Stadium with happy dreams.
“He’s going to run, he’s going to extend plays,” Reed said. “We’ve got to plaster our guys. We’ve just got to handle him.”