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Notre Dame Football

Consistent Coan nails down starter's job; Rees praises RB group

August 14, 2021
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The most consistent word used to describe Notre Dame's new starting quarterback?
Consistent.

It came from newly minted team captains Jarrett Patterson, Avery Davis and Kyren Williams.

It came from offensive coordinator Tommy Rees.

And it was spoken repeatedly Saturday by all parties, shortly after Coan officially was declared the winner of Notre Dame's first quarterback derby in some four years.

Coan will start when the No. 7 Fighting Irish travel to Florida State to open their season Sunday, Sept. 5 inside Doak Campbell Stadium.

“This was a clean slate,” said Rees of the three-man battle between Coan-Drew Pyne-Brendon Clark. “We did not lean on past experiences or anything of that sort. This was a clean slate with Jack competing. We wanted to make sure that the three guys competing all had ample opportunities to go out there and perform. Like I said, all of three of them have done things at a high level that give us the feeling that we can win football games with them.

“The differentiator there at the end was just the consistent level of performance of Jack. This thing was a clean slate from he stepped foot here late January, February.”

The consistency was the first trait Davis used to describe the new Irish QB, who replaces the graduated Ian Book and enters the season with 26 games' experience from his undergraduate work at Wisconsin.

“Consistent. Consistent as there is,” Davis said. “Staying in the 'Gug' later than anybody I know.”

Added Patterson, “He asked a lot of questions. He picked up the playbook really fast. I think for the offensive line it feels like he's been here a while.”

Coan outlined what consistency meant to him.

“I'd say just being the same guy every single day, not having highs and lows,” said the 6-foot-3.25, 223-pound New York native. “Basically making good decisions constantly. Protecting the football. Making the right reads. Things like that.”

Rees repeatedly emphasized his belief in the ability of all three signal-callers to lead the Irish.

“I think, look, all three guys we feel like we could win with,” Rees said. “All three quarterbacks have put in a ton of work, have really done everything we've asked of them in terms of coming to practice every day, being focused on details and having narrow-minded focus and doing really what we've asked of them.

“End of the day just came down to the consistent level of Jack's performance.”

In fact, Rees explained, there wasn't a singular moment or signature play that Coan engineered that made the coaches say, “OK, Jack's our starter.”

It was, instead, the body of work.

“This is a decision that was made over the totality of the opportunities we had to evaluate,” Rees said. “All three guys have done things that (you say), 'OK, that can help us win games.' I think it's just been consistency in Jack's approach, day in and day out, that's put him in a pretty good position.”

PRAISE FOR PYNE

Rees said that while it was not a fun conversation with Drew Pyne, he admired the way that the redshirt-freshman quarterback accepted the news of Coan having won the starter's mantle.

“Drew is a special, special kid,” Rees said. “His energy, his love for Notre Dame, his love for his teammates. It's as authentic as it gets and it's as contagious as it gets. I mean, the kid has just a great way about him. No conversations about that are easy, but it speaks volumes to who Drew is. His response is this is going to push me to continue to get better. I'm going to support whoever's playing, I'm going to be there for them and I'm going to push myself to get to where I want to be. That just speaks volumes to Drew, how he was raised, his mentality. He's a special kid.

“I've been in his shoes. For me, when I was his age, I was in Coach's office being named the starter and ended up starting 12 games that year. So with Drew, you never know where this thing is going to go. Drew's got the right mentality and he's going to continue to prepare and do the right things and when his moment's called, he'll be ready.”

PRAISE FOR THE RB GROUP

Notre Dame charts not just its physical mistakes but its mental busts in every practice. The Irish are through their first eight days of camp and again had some full-scale game elements to Saturday's practice inside Notre Dame Stadium.

Rees revealed the group that thus far has been sharpest.

“Coach Taylor's done an unbelievable job preparing those guys,” Rees said. “We track mental errors every day, we show them every day and the running back room has the fewest. Coach Taylor does a great job preparing them. I think when you have a guy like Kyren in the room leading them, you're automatically held to a standard.

“The room's as strong as it's been since I've been here.”

The depth might arguably be the best of the Kelly era. In addition to captain and reigning All-ACC tailback Williams, Notre Dame boasts a group of deep, versatile ballcarriers with Chris Tyree, C'Bo Flemister and true freshmen Logan Diggs and Audric Estime.

“We have, look, Chris Tyree's a dynamic player. C'Bo's had a role here the last couple years. It's about carving opportunities to get each of them touches,” Rees said. “It's being very conscientious about how we're involving those guys, because I'd be a fool not to try to get the ball to Chris Tyree. I'd be a fool not to try to get the ball to Kyren and some of the other backs in situations and let them go be great players because that's what they are.

“It's a good problem to have, it's a good opportunity for me to be creative.”

 
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