NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL: Book returning, Kmet leaving highlight offseason moves

Notre Dame senior Ian Book (12) throws a pass while junior Cole Kmet, 84, tries to block Boston College junior Isaiah McDuffie (55) during Notre Dame’s 40-7 victory over Boston College on Nov. 23 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. Book announced last week he will be returning to Notre Dame for a fifth season, while Kmet said Thursday he will be declaring for the NFL Draft.

SOUTH BEND — For most seniors, Senior Day is the last time they’ll play on their home field. For Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book, though, that might not be the case.

Book, an academic senior who redshirted his freshman year, still has a year of eligibility left. There was discussion at the beginning of the season that if Book repeated the success he had in 2018, he may declare for the NFL Draft following this year. A slow start to the 2019 campaign halted most of that talk, but a resurgence from Book in the past four weeks has resparked the discussion.

In his first seven games, Book threw for 1,492 yards, 15 touchdowns and two interceptions. He rushed for 193 yards and three touchdowns as well.

In the last four victories against Virginia Tech, Duke, Navy and Boston College, however, Book has thrown for 1,040 yards, 14 touchdowns and four interceptions. He’s also accumulated 294 yards rushing, including the game-winning touchdown run to beat Virginia Tech.

The redshirt junior participated in the Senior Day festivities before the game, running on to the field to a nice ovation from the crowd. Book’s family was there, along with the families of the other 28 seniors honored.

When asked afterward if the 40-7 victory over Boston College would be his last performance at Notre Dame Stadium, Book kept his answer vague.

“We’ll see,” Book said. “Regardless, a special night. Just to have my family down there, everyone’s family down there. It’s emotional. But, yeah, we’ll see. We have another game to go.”

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly commended his quarterback for being able to put the NFL talk to the side and focusing on the task at hand.

“It makes sense for me and him, and I’ve asked him to do this is: kind of hold this to the side and please focus on playing the position of quarterback,” Kelly said. “And he’s done a great job of that. So I really don’t want to upset that, and I’ve asked him to kind of just put that aside right now. We have plenty of time to deal with it after the Stanford game.”

Kelly has been in a similar situation with a starting quarterback before. Following the 2016 season, DeShone Kizer was eligible to enter the NFL Draft. Kizer decided to forgo his final two years of eligibility and enter the Draft. He was selected in the second round by the Cleveland Browns.

That’s why Kelly thinks it’s smart for Book to go through the process — after the Stanford game.

“I think what he should do is get all the information first — we’ll get the NFL evaluation in, get all that,” Kelly said. “We’re in the ‘passing lane’ right now. We’re trying to go through some traffic, and so it’s really too hard to kind of sit back and make those decisions at this time. There will be a time and place after the game that we play at Stanford to kind of make that decision. But we’re so focused on winning another football game. Then we’ll sit back and make that decision. I’ll help him.”

HOME WARRIORS

Saturday’s win was the 18th straight victory at Notre Dame Stadium for the Fighting Irish. Their last home loss came in September 2017, when Georgia was a one-point winner.

The Irish are tied with Alabama-Birmingham for the fourth-longest home winning streak in the country. Clemson has the current longest streak at 22 games. Alabama’s 31-game home winning streak was snapped earlier this year against LSU.

Winning at home is something that is stressed to the Notre Dame players year-round.

“It’s part of our summer workouts. We have themed runs, conditioning runs that center around that,” Kelly said. “We condition in the stadium, which is a protect-our-house-themed run with video. It is a big deal. It’s important. And if you look at the schedule, most teams play seven games at home. If you can protect your house and do OK on the road, you’re in the mix. So, it’s a huge point of emphasis.”

Next season’s home schedule features Arkansas, Western Michigan, Stanford, Duke, Clemson and Louisville.

STANFORD KICKOFF TIME

Notre Dame (9-2) and Stanford (4-7) will start at 4 p.m. ET (1 p.m. PT) and be televised on Fox. It will be the first day game the Irish have played on the road all season.

“It shouldn’t be too much of an issue because it’s really 4 o’clock on our clocks,” Kelly said. “We’ve been between 2:30 and 3:30 for home games, so it shouldn’t be much of an issue for us. … I think our guys are excited about the 1 o’clock start. Get out and let’s go play the game. Don’t have to be sitting around the hotel all day. Last game of the year, you want to go out there and play. So I know our guys are excited about the news.”

Austin Hough can be reached at austin.hough@goshennews.com or at 574-538-2360. Follow him on Twitter at @AustinHoughTGN.

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