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Notre Dame Football

Kelly urges wide-open QB battle

March 27, 2021

Technically, Jack Coan is the new guy for Notre Dame football.

At the quarterback position, anyway.

Reality? All of the Fighting Irish signal-callers essentially are the new guys, with veteran wins-leader Ian Book gone and preparing for the NFL Draft after a pair of College Football Playoffs appearances in three-plus seasons of starts.

So, enter Coan – the Wisconsin transfer.

Enter Drew Pyne, the redshirt-freshman with four mop-up appearances to his credit from the 2020 campaign.

Also enter heralded newcomer Tyler Buchner and, in limited capacity this spring, Brendon Clarke, the third-year quarterback recovering from December knee surgery.

Coan arrived at Notre Dame in January with 18 career starts for the Badgers in 25 appearances.

As the Fighting Irish opened their spring 2021 camp under Brian Kelly Saturday on campus, Coan entered with nothing guaranteed.

“We want Drew to be the starter,” Kelly said. “We're not handing this job to Jack Coan. Drew's been in the program. We want him in the spring to be competing for the starting position. He'll have an opportunity to do that where they get first-team reps.

"It doesn't phase him. (The other quarterbacks) are excited Jack is here. They love having another quarterback in the room that has experience and pushes the group. It's been a great relationship.”

In Pyne, who often got the second-team snaps last fall behind Book as Clarke battled injuries, the Irish see a player who, like Book, has approached competition with a something-to-prove attitude.

"Drew is the ultimate competitor,” Irish wideout Avery Davis said. “He takes on any challenge and he's really going to step up to the plate whenever his name is called.

"It was really fun working with him this offseason and I'm excited to keep working with him going forward."

Added Kelly, “Drew is built for this. He's always been told he is not good enough or can't be the starter or can't win. He relishes these opportunities. He's always succeeded. This doesn't affect Drew at all. It just motivates him even more."

To Coan, Kelly stressed a straightforward approach as the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Sayville, New York, native prepared to transition forward with the Irish.

“I said, 'You don't have to worry about pretending to be somebody else,'” Kelly said. “(And told him) 'Be who you are. They know who you are. You've got a lot of recognition for the things you've accomplished in the Big Ten at Wisconsin. Be who you are and authentic. When you're authentic, guys trust you.'

"When you're a starting quarterback, you already have great traits and his work ethic is outstanding. We knew a lot of that about him already, so he came in here and has fit in extremely well because he's been authentic and who he is and hasn't tried to pretend. Naturally, leadership will follow that position. That's kind of what's happened."

Davis said Coan has both been available and made an effort to begin developing a timing with the Irish wideouts.

"I've spoken to Jack a lot,” Davis said. “Every day I've talked to him. He's also throwing with us all the time too.

"I feel like Jack's a really good guy. Just like Drew, he's a very good competitor. He's a lot more straightforward and to the business. I'm really excited to work with Jack as well."

While Kelly said Clark was months away from being full-go, he does expect Clark to begin throwing again during the Irish's spring camp, which has 14 more dates and is set to conclude with the Blue-Gold Game on May 1.

As for Buchner, his last high school game came in 2019. Kelly doesn't want to rush Buchner's approach and development.

“Tyler just got here and he hasn't played football for a year,” Kelly said of Buchner, who could not play in California in the fall due to the state's COVID restrictions and elected to enroll midyear at Notre Dame rather than spend another season on the prep gridiron. “You have to understand there is some development that has to take place there.

“He had a nice practice (Saturday). He doesn't know our offense and the basics is really what he's trying to feel good about. He's got some work to do from that perspective, but he's a quick study. He's a really good athlete."

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