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Notre Dame Football

Coan, Pyne locked in Notre Dame QB battle

April 3, 2021

If there's the slightest advantage in Notre Dame's quarterback battle, Brian Kelly isn't tipping his hand.

What the Fighting Irish coach is seeing, however, are encouraging steps from both second-year quarterback Drew Pyne and Wisconsin graduate-transfer Jack Coan.

“I think the way (offensive coordinator Tommy Rees) has got it set up which is what we wanted, is a battle between Jack Coan and Drew Pyne,” Kelly said. “Those two guys are really getting equal reps with the first and second group. A good battle there. We're in practice four.

“We evaluate that from day to day. One day we see some good things from Drew and then Jack does some really good things.”

Coan, of course, is the more than 6-feet, 3-inch, former standout lacrosse player with a background commitment to the Fighting Irish – in that sport, not football, because five or six years ago Coan had no offer from Kelly's program.

He also owns 25 games' collegiate experience, 18 of them starts.

Pyne's the former wunderkind prospect, among his very first offers a verbal opportunity from Alabama for its football program during Pyne's eighth-grade year, and now three years removed from his April 2018 commitment to the Fighting Irish.

Yet both quarterbacks bring a something-to-prove approach to both the position and the competition.

“Kind of going back all the way to eighth grade, I was lucky enough, I was offered by Alabama in eighth grade,” Pyne, who had three touchdowns in 7-on-7 work, told reporters Saturday via Zoom after the Irish's fourth spring practice. “I was able to go to an unbelievable high school (New Canaan) with a great, Coach (Lou) Marinelli. I was able to start my freshman year and they'd never played a freshman. I was able to play four years there. No matter where you are and you're an eighth-grader and you have an offer to play at Alabama and you're going to play your freshman year, there's going to be some people that doubt you. My family did a great job trying to keep me level-headed and have tunnel vision.

“Ever since I've been here, I've just been the same way. I think I'm locked in as much as I can. Competition brings out the best in me. That's why you come to Notre Dame. To compete against the best guys in the country. That's how you get better. Doubt motivates me, it's something I've dealt with my whole life. It's something that motivates me and I'm just going to keep working.”

Coan says he is eager to showcase his all-around athleticism – something he either was not asked or did not get the chance to do at Wisconsin, where he finished with minus-11 career rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns.

“Honestly, I do whatever the coaches ask me to do,” Coan said. “I think running is a part of my game I can use when I need to, as far as scrambling and things like that. When I was at Wisconsin, I'd rather hand the ball off to Jonathan Taylor instead of me running the ball. I'm excited to definitely use my legs a little bit here and I feel like I'm definitely more athletic than people think.

“I think it's something that's part of my game that I haven't necessarily shown too much in the past. But I'm definitely excited for it.”

Added Kelly, “We're not afraid to run Jack. He is a better athlete than people have given him credit for. Maybe he hasn't been discredited, maybe that's not fair to say. He's a good athlete. He runs well, he's big, he's strong. Running him is certainly going to be part of our offense and wha we ask him to do.”

Additionally, Kelly is seeing highly touted newcomer Tyler Buchner begin to find his footing on the football field after last playing in a high school game more than 15 months ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Today we started to see some of the rust come off of Tyler Buchner,” Kelly said. “Today was a really good day for him. He was much more comfortable out there. Threw the ball with a lot more confidence. It was nice to see him out there, he had a smile on his face and had some confidence.

“All those midyears, I actually commented after practice, what a whirlwind for those guys. We throw them right into the deep end. Good day for Tyler, each one of them is a little bit different from that perspective.”

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