How Many QBs On Notre Dame’s Football Schedule Are Better Than Jack Coan?
Jack Coan has much to prove.
According to Pro Football Focus, there are five quarterbacks on Notre Dame’s 2021 schedule who are better than the Wisconsin graduate transfer who is now the Irish's likely starter. That handful includes the QB who replaced Coan in Madison: Badgers redshirt sophomore Graham Mertz.
PFF put out a ranking of every Football Bowl Subdivision quarterback — No. 1 to No. 130 — last week. Coan landed at No. 32. Five of the quarterbacks Notre Dame will face this fall ranked inside the top 30.
Below is a breakdown of where every quarterback the Irish will go against in 2021 landed on PFF’s list.
No. 2: North Carolina’s Sam Howell
The Irish defense held Howell to his lowest passing yardage total (211) and lowest quarterback rating (140.8) of the season in 2020. Howell had 550 passing yards and six touchdowns against Wake Forest the week before the Tar Heels hosted Notre Dame.
PFF wrote Howell “arguably throws the best deep ball in college football” but also told readers to be cautious in predicting his 2021 production. PFF only listed one quarterback, Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler, in “Tier 1: The Elite.” Howell’s roster aided in dropping him back to Tier 2: “High-Ceiling Quarterbacks.”
“How he fares without the slew of weapons he had at his disposal as an underclassman is something to keep an eye on this fall,” PFF wrote.
The Irish will face Howell and UNC in South Bend on Oct. 30.
No. 10: USC’s Kedon Slovis
Another “high-ceiling quarterback,” the third-year Trojan starter has completed 70 percent of his passes in 18 games (17 starts). One of those starts, of course, came against Notre Dame in 2019. He threw for 255 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-27 Irish victory.
“He shattered expectations as a true freshman in 2019, earning an 80.8 passing grade and displaying precise accuracy,” PFF wrote. “Still, Slovis often looked like a first-year player and made one or two head-scratching forced throws per game. He also struggled to hold onto the ball in collapsing pockets.
“Instead of taking that next step forward, he was the same player in 2020. He earned an 80.1 passing grade across six starts, which featured 13 turnover-worthy plays but top-notch accuracy underneath.”
Slovis and the Trojans head to Notre Dame Stadium to face the Irish on Oct. 23.
No. 16: Florida State’s McKenzie Milton
Coan didn’t play a single snap in 2020, but McKenzie Milton hasn’t played a snap since week 13 of 2018. The UCF transfer suffered a gruesome, potential career-ending leg injury against South Florida that week. Milton is set to make his return and add to his career passing totals of 8,683 yards and 72 touchdowns in a Seminoles uniform.
“If he returns as the same player of 2017 and 2018, then he will easily be in the conversation as a top-15 FBS quarterback,” PFF wrote.
Notre Dame opens the season at Florida State on Sept. 5.
No. 18: Virginia’s Brennan Armstrong
Here’s a statistic that has the folks at PFF high on Armstrong: Rattler was the only quarterback in the country with a higher big-time throw rate when under duress in 2020. Notre Dame will see a pure playmaker when the Irish travel to Virginia on Nov. 13.
PFF: “Armstrong isn't the prettiest quarterback from a mechanics standpoint and doesn't possess high-level accuracy, but he made it work through the air while doing plenty of damage with his legs in 2020.”
No. 26: Wisconsin’s Graham Mertz
PFF’s third tier of quarterbacks — “The Good, Not Great” — started with Western Michigan’s Kaleb Eleby at No. 24. PFF described Mertz, the third QB in the third tier, as a bit of an enigma.
“If anyone is moving up a tier from this group, it’s probably Graham Mertz. At the same time, though, he has every bit of a chance to slide some.”
Why? He opened the season with a passing grade of 93.9 but averaged 53.4 over the final five games of Wisconsin’s season. He reportedly suffered a shoulder injury in week two. If Mertz is healthy in 2021, PFF believes he might have a breakout year.
Notre Dame takes on Mertz and the Badgers at Soldier Field on Sept. 25.
No. 32: Notre Dame’s Jack Coan
If Coan did not already have a chip on his shoulder having not started since 2019 and now having to show the country he can thrive at a place like Notre Dame, then maybe he will after reading what PFF wrote about him.
“He can play in structure and is accurate underneath but won’t lead an exciting, explosive passing offense. Coan’s big-time throw rate in 2019 tied for 89th in the FBS, and he produced a turnover-worthy throw rate on 20-plus yard throws that ranked second-to-last.”
The statistics don’t lie, but they can always improve. Coan has a golden opportunity as the Irish’s likely starter to rewrite what national pundits believe about him.
The Rest Of The List
Here are where the other quarterbacks Notre Dame will go against rank in PFF’s rundown.
No. 40: Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder
No. 58: Toledo’s Carter Bradley
No. 60: Purdue’s Jack Plummer or Aidan O’Connell
No. 61: Virginia Tech’s Braxton Burmeister
No. 99: Stanford’s Tanner McKee or Jack West
No. 100: Georgia Tech’s Jeff Sims
No. 126: Navy’s Xavier Arline
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