Where Notre Dame Football Quarterback Battle Stands After First Practice
Notre Dame director of football performance Matt Balis gives 20 Irish players the title of “ultimate warrior” at the end of the summer workout period. Wisconsin graduate transfer quarterback Jack Coan earned one of those nods.
“It’s hard to get that award,” Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said.
What does it mean beyond a title Coan can tout if he feels so inclined?
“He’s seen by his peers as a warrior,” Kelly said. “Somebody that is on time for every workout. Is there. Is committed. You can count on him. He’s a guy who you want lined up next to you in the foxhole.”
Coan, by the way, probably won’t feel so inclined.
Kelly said he’s the type of veteran who leads with his actions, not necessarily his words. That presence was palpable inside Notre Dame’s indoor practice facility Saturday morning. Where Coan moved, onlookers’ eyes followed. When he reared back to throw a pass, people wanted to watch it fly.
That obviously comes with the territory of the position Coan has planted himself in. He’s the favorite to win Notre Dame’s quarterback battle — if you can even call it that at this point — when Kelly is set to name a starter after this coming Thursday’s scrimmage.
Kelly was asked a specific question about Coan during his post-practice press conference. He spent a minute touching on the value of Coan’s 14 starts at Wisconsin in 2019 before immediately transitioning to this line: “This won't be a long, drawn-out (quarterback competition). We'll make a decision after the first scrimmage as to who the starter is.”
Kelly later said the Notre Dame program — coaches and players alike — has “a pretty good sense of where this is going to go.” Read between the lines.
It appears to be just a two-horse raise anyway. Coan and sophomore Drew Pyne were the only quarterbacks who took reps with the ones Saturday. Coan handled most of those opportunities, but Pyne entered the fold there from time to time. Kelly said that will continue to happen through Thursday's scrimmage.
True freshman Tyler Buchner ran with the third-team. For anyone who had hope the four-star, No. 6 overall quarterback recruit in the class of 2021 according to Rivals would play right away, now might be the time to taper those expectations.
It's not impossible for Buchner to show enough flashes in the next week to make Kelly and company think differently about where he fits into the equation, but Kelly didn't speak about Buchner with the same assuredness as he did Coan and Pyne.
"In particular, Drew and Jack have a lot of respect and our guys would be ready to go with either one of them," Kelly said. "Tyler is a young kid, and there would be more preparation needed there."
Kelly said junior Brendon Clark is a “few weeks away” from being cleared for 100% participation in coming back from offseason knee surgery. Knee-braced secured over his right knee, Clark ran with the fourth-team in the non-contact, no pads practice.
“He’s still lagging behind,” Kelly said. "And not through anything he hasn't done. He's been crazy in the training room, but he's a few weeks behind... He's got some work to do."
It’s Coan or Pyne at this point, and while Kelly said Pyne will have an opportunity to win the job over the next five days, all signs point to the former being named QB1 next in less than a week.
Kelly will still do his due diligence up until the final hour, which is Thursday afternoon in this case. But the writing is on the wall. Notre Dame’s next starting quarterback appears to be a 6-3, 223-pound pocket passer from Sayville, New York, by way of Madison, Wisconsin.
The ball is all but yours, Mr. Coan.
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