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Notre Dame Football

Position Outlook | Quarterback

February 24, 2021
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When Ian Book took over the quarterback position from Brandon Wimbush in 2018, he brought a lot of things to the table that were valuable to the offense. Maybe the most important thing was stability.

The program benefited from that on their way to three straight double digit win seasons. Book had his faults, but Notre Dame could count on his strengths in almost every situation. For the players and the staff, they could feel confident knowing that their guy was going to be running the offense.

Book’s gone and it’s a new chapter at quarterback. How that chapter will turn out is unknown, but we’ll have a better idea of where things are headed this spring.

The favorite to take control of the job is Jack Coan. The former starter at Wisconsin is battle-tested facing six top-40 defenses in 2019. That experience means a lot because the players he is competing with have never faced that heat before.

Coan is accurate, poised in the pocket, and can bring a level of consistency to the offense.

He’s not dynamic, though. He’s not a dual-threat (only 3.8 yards per carry minus sack yardage), doesn’t have an elite arm, and is more of a game manager than a playmaker. His experience gives him an edge, but it’s far from a slam dunk that he’ll be the starter this fall.

No one should count out Drew Pyne in the quarterback competition. He was Book’s backup last season as a true freshman and reports were favorable about his progress. He’s very smart, has a great work ethic, and has a personality that other players would want to follow.

He’ll be able to do a lot of the things that Book did well and could be closer to Coan when it comes to throwing the ball with anticipation. Pyne probably isn’t going to be as good at improvising as Book, but don’t discount Pyne as a runner or an athlete. He can be an asset in that part of the game when necessary.

The questions about him are his size and how well he can throw the deep ball. Until we see that in practice, we don’t know how well he can do with the latter.

The odds seemed stacked against Brendon Clark because of his injury status. If he’s not able to compete fully in the spring, that allows the other quarterbacks a pretty big headstart. He’ll have to be lights out in the summer to have a shot.

Why take this long to mention Tyler Buchner? Because the hype train needs to slow down a bit until he gets on to the practice field.

No one has more raw talent than him. If he wins the job, the offense likely takes a drastic shift to highlight his running ability. He is a great athlete who should be used on designed runs and his best plays on film are when he gets outside of the pocket.

Here’s a reminder for everyone who has forgotten: Buchner played wide receiver and quarterback in 2017. He missed the entire 2018 season with a knee injury. He came back with a ridiculous junior season that showed what a special athlete he is. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a senior season due to the pandemic delaying high school football in California.

He’s pretty much the anti-Coan in terms of experience. It’s unfair to expect someone who has played as little as he has over the last three years to come in and be the starting quarterback for Notre Dame as a true freshman. A redshirt year seems more probable than him becoming the starter.

But the talent is impossible to ignore. We’ll see if that is enough to get him into the mix this spring as an early enrollee.

Ronnie Powlus is the other quarterback who signed in the 2021 cycle and you can mark it down in sharpie that he will redshirt and be on the scout team this fall.

If there were odds on who will be at the top of the depth chart after the spring, Coan would be the safest bet. Who will be the starter against Florida State won’t likely be know until late August and who will be the starter in Palo Alto to close the season may not be the same player who takes that first snap on September 5th.

 
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