Stanford Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book throws during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Stanford on Saturday in South Bend, Ind.

Ian Book wasn’t a blue-chip quarterback prospect when Mike Sanford first learned of him.

Sanford was Boise State’s offensive coordinator in 2014 when program staffer Taylor Tharp showed him the Class of 2016 QB’s film. At that point, Book’s college offers were from Idaho and FCS program San Diego.

“I watched the kid’s film and I saw everything you need from a skillset standpoint,” Sanford said Thursday.

Fast forward four years and Sanford is coaching Western Kentucky while Book is Notre Dame’s starting quarterback.

Book and the sixth-ranked Fighting Irish (5-0) will play at No. 24 Virginia Tech (3-1) at 7 p.m. CDT Saturday. Sanford’s Hilltoppers (1-4 overall, 0-1 Conference USA) are off this week before playing at Charlotte (2-3, 1-1) on Oct. 13.

Sanford was Book’s primary recruiter at Boise State, where he committed during the 2014 season. Sanford left the following offseason to become Notre Dame’s offensive coordinator, and Book flipped his commitment to Washington State.

Even with Book pledged to the Cougars, Sanford stayed in touch with the three-star prospect from El Dorado Hills, Calif.

“I told him that, ‘Hey, I’ve got to go out and evaluate a bunch of heavily recruited, five-star guys, but don’t be surprised if we give you a phone call down the road,’ ” Sanford said. “That’s exactly how it played out and he ended up committing to Notre Dame and the rest is history.”

Book signed with the Fighting Irish in 2016 and served as the team’s fourth-string quarterback. Sanford coached Book and his fellow QBs until accepting the WKU coaching job that December.

As a sophomore in 2017, Book backed up Brandon Wimbush. He did so again the first three weeks of Notre Dame’s 2018 season before taking over as the team’s new starter.

Book has powered the Irish to wins the last two weeks over Wake Forest and previously unbeaten Stanford. He’s completed 74 percent of his passes for 616 yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions.

Sanford has followed the 6-foot, 203-pound junior’s success from afar.

“The biggest thing I saw about Ian that I loved as a player in high school, even if he was 181 pounds soaking wet when we evaluated him, was his quick twitch as a passer, quick twitch as an athlete and honestly, a quick-twitch decision-maker,” Sanford said.

“Anymore, when you look across the landscape of college quarterbacks and even pro quarterbacks now – Baker Mayfield, Trace McSorley, Kyler Murray – the list goes on and on of guys that are quick-twitch athletes, quick-twitch decision-makers. Ian Book is playing exactly that way.”

Sanford said he’s still close to the former starter Wimbush, who was also in his position group at Notre Dame. He called the senior Wimbush a “phenomenal talent” and said the Irish have “a wealth of riches at the quarterback position.”

Sanford said he wants to make deep QB rooms a standard at his current job as well.

“I think at WKU, we’re putting ourselves in that position going forward,” Sanford said. “We’re going to have some incredibly talented quarterbacks with Steven Duncan, Kevaris Thomas, Davis Shanley and then our incoming players.”

Hilltopper coaches recruiting on bye week

WKU’s coaching staff was busy this summer finding Class of 2019 prospects. Of the 15 prospects publicly committed to the Hilltoppers’ 2019 class, all but defensive lineman Ricky Barber announced their pledges before August.

With WKU on a bye week, Sanford and his assistants were set to hit the road again this weekend and recruit. Sanford said that he personally expected to cover “about 1,200 miles” of travel in search of future Toppers.

“We’re pretty close to being full already, but that doesn’t mean anything,” Sanford said. “I have a great belief in what we’re doing from an evaluation standpoint. Part of the evaluation standpoint is you know that some Power Five teams are going to come around knocking in late November and December and even January.

“So we’re building those relationships. We’re spending a lot of time on the phone with prospects. In terms of who’s committed right now, we’re pretty close to being full. But we’re recruiting diligently and actively and preparing for all different kinds of numerical situations.”

Sanford identified offensive line as a position where WKU wants to add 5-7 signees this cycle. Four O-linemen – Wes Dorsey, Jordan Flack, Garrett Jennings and Daylen Powell – have publicly pledged to the Hilltoppers.

Other WKU commits include quarterbacks Tylan Morton and Javion Posey and two local wide receivers, Clayton Bush and Dalvin Smith. Bush is a senior at South Warren High School while Smith is a Glasgow HS graduate who’ll join the Tops next spring as a grayshirt.

WKU only has 10 seniors on its 2018 roster, but Sanford said he still aims for a 25-man 2019 class.

“I think going after and seeking that 25 number, it allows you to prepare for any type of circumstance so you’re not left at the altar late … without enough positional depth,” Sanford said.

Class of 2019 commitments

Stephone Atkinson, DL, Lake Minneola HS, Lake Minneola, Fla.

Ricky Barber, DL, Doss Magnet Career Academy, Louisville

Clayton Bush, WR, South Warren HS, Bowling Green

Wes Dorsey, OL, Grace Christian Academy, Knoxville, Tenn.

Jordan Flack, OL, Albert P. Brewer HS, Somerville, Ala.

Brock Higdon, DE, Pelham HS, Pelham, Ala.

Garrett Jennings, OL, Elizabethton HS, Elizabethton, Tenn.

Terrell Jennings, RB, Mandarin HS, Jacksonville, Fla.

Desmond Johnson, LB, Valdosta HS, Valdosta, Ga.

#Tylan Morton, QB, Hinds Community College, Griffin, Ga.

Cory Munson, K, Northside HS, Warner Robbins, Ga.

Javion Posey, QB, Greenville HS, Greenville, Ala.

Daylen Powell, OL, Summerville HS, Summerville, S.C.

%Dalvin Smith, WR, Glasgow HS, Glasgow

Travares Springer, CB, Maplewood HS, Nashville

%Class of 2018 prospect who will grayshirt and join the program for the 2019 season

#Junior college prospect

Sanford optimistic for RB Moses to play in 2018

Running back Jakairi Moses’ sophomore season was derailed early in spring practice when he suffered a knee injury.

In years past, Moses might have been considered out for the season. But thanks to new NCAA rules, he could play as many as four games this fall and still preserve a season of eligibility.

WKU’s final four regular-season games are Nov. 2 at Middle Tennessee, Nov. 10 at Florida Atlantic, Nov. 17 vs. Texas-El Paso and Nov. 24 at Louisiana Tech.

With the new redshirt guidelines, Moses could make his debut at MTSU, play those final four games and enter 2019 as a redshirt sophomore.

Sanford didn’t put a definite date on Moses’ return but said the Palm Beach, Fla., native has made strides in rehabbing his knee.

Moses (5-9, 185 pounds) rushed for 268 yards and two touchdowns in 2017 as a freshman. He also tallied 158 receiving yards.

“Jakairi looks like an action figure,” Sanford said. “When a guy gets an ACL injury or has any kind of knee injury, you want their upper body to be in the best shape of its life.

“I think he’s going to be ready to play at the tail end of this season. He’s a month ahead of even an advanced timeline. What that exactly means, I can’t commit to right now. But he looks really good.”{&end}

– Follow Daily News sports reporter Brad Stephens on Twitter @BradBGDN or visit bgdailynews.com.

Bowling Green Daily News sports reporter primarily covering Western Kentucky football and men's basketball.

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