Notre Dame will have a new quarterback under center in 2020 after the departure of three-year starter Ian Book. The Fighting Irish quarterback depth chart has a mix of experience, intriguing returning talent and an impact freshman.
Our replace and reload series continues with a look at how Notre Dame is going to move on at quarterback.
WHAT WAS LOST
Book started 35 games during his career, and Notre Dame went 30-5 in games he started, something head coach Brian Kelly loves to point out. Notre Dame went 21-4 in the two seasons in which Book was the full-time starter.
Book finished his career with the highest completion rate in Notre Dame history (63.8%) and the lowest interception rate (1.75%). He also finished his career second all-time in completions (728), pass attempts (1,141), passing yards (8.948), passing touchdowns (72) and rushing yards for a quarterback (1,517).
Book finished his career ranked third with eight games of at least 300 passing yards and he tied with Rick Mirer for third all-time for a quarterback with 17 rushing touchdowns. Book ranked 10th all-time in quarterback rating (147.00) and he was just outside the top ten in yards per pass attempt and yards per pass completion.
Notre Dame recently received a commitment from former Wisconsin signal caller Jack Coan, who comes to South Bend with one season of eligibility remaining. Coan was actually committed to Notre Dame early in his prep career ... for lacrosse.
Coan started one full season at Wisconsin, leading the Badgers to a 10-4 record, a trip to the Big Ten title game and a berth in the Rose Bowl. Wisconsin finished that 2019 season ranked 11th in the final Associated Press poll, one spot ahead of Notre Dame.
In just 14 starts that season, Coan led the Badgers to three wins over Power 5 opponents that finished the 2019 season ranked. By contrast, Book had just four wins over Power 5 opponents that finished ranked among his 35 career starts.
Coan completed 69.6% of his passes in that season to go with 2,727 yards and 18 touchdown passes.
You can read more of my analysis of what Coan brings to the Notre Dame offense HERE. (Analysis includes film clips)
You can read my statistical and skill comparison between Book and Coan HERE.
Notre Dame returns two young quarterbacks to the roster in 2020. The problem, however, is that Notre Dame rarely played its backup quarterbacks in the last two seasons. Notre Dame's two backup quarterbacks in 2020 played just a combined 43 snaps, and the pair attempted just six combined passes.
Junior Brendon Clark was the backup to Book this season, at least when he was healthy. Clark has just four career pass attempts, and he enters the offseason dealing with a knee injury (ACL) that could need surgery to repair.
Clark has a powerful arm and he's athletic, but his limited played time has kept him from getting the necessary reps to enhance his game. Clark needs to be healthy this spring if he's going to have any chance at competing for the backup role, much less the starting spot. He needs refinement with his technique (footwork, stride, release) and he must continue improving his ability to process reads.
When Clark went out, then freshman Drew Pyne stepped into the backup role. Pyne played just 25 snaps this season and attempted just three passes. He doesn't have Clark's size, arm strength or athleticism, but Pyne is not a quarterback that Notre Dame fans, or coaches, should overlook.
Pyne is a highly intelligent young quarterback, he's an accurate passer with a quick release, and he's a poised young player. He'll need to get stronger and continue enhancing his arm strength, but in the right system, Pyne has the mental and physical traits to eventually be an outstanding college quarterback.
The player who will get the most attention this spring will be true freshman Tyler Buchner, who is set to arrive on campus very soon. Buchner is a dynamic talent, possessing the arm strength and athleticism to be a difference maker.
Many will call for Buchner to get a chance to start as a freshman, and perhaps that happens, but he played just one full season of varsity football in high school. It would be best for Irish fans to be patient with Buchner and give him time to develop. Perhaps he wins the backup job as a freshman, and if he does it would be wise for the staff to get him some dedicated playing time in the fashion that we've seen programs like Clemson do in the past.
If Buchner is a quick study he'll rise up the depth chart in a hurry, but I'm still curious to see how his new release looks on a full-time basis. If the incoming freshman can make it work, he'll eventually develop into a special player for the Irish offense.
1. Can Coan pick things up quickly? - Coan certainly has experience, and big game experience at that, but he doesn't have experience running Notre Dame's offense. How quickly he picks things up this spring, and how quickly he gets on the same page with his teammates, will go a long way towards him locking down the starting role.
Beyond that, it will determine how impactful he'll be for the Irish offense.
2. Which of the returners rises to the occasions? - With the arrival of Coan and Buchner, the odds are one of the returners will be the odd man out in the competition. Whoever plays the best over the next seven months will enter fall camp with a chance to battle for the starting role. Whoever loses the battle will for all intents and purposes be the fourth quarterback.
3. How quickly will Buchner adapt and adjust? - Buchner has very little experience playing quarterback, and as talented as he is, that should tamp down expectations for what he'll be as a freshman. If Buchner picks things up quickly and makes a smooth adjustment it means he's a fast study, which will only increase the excitement of what he can be as a quarterback.
Past Replace and Reload Features
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