Notre Dame Should Go The Oklahoma Route At Quarterback


Notre Dame has had trouble developing a quarterback during the Brian Kelly era. Even the best Notre Dame quarterbacks would only produce marginal improvement. However, many others regressed during their time at Notre Dame as well. With all the trouble finding a solid quarterback, Notre Dame should take the Oklahoma approach.

Oklahoma Approach

Sooner head coach Lincoln Riley has become a QB guru over the last few seasons. Two Heisman winners and another finalist in three years is a solid resume builder. However, as quarterback friendly as Riley's system is, there hasn't been a ton of development needed.

Baker Mayfield spent three years at Oklahoma but also had a year at Texas Tech. Riley obviously had a hand in developing Mayfield. But we could see he was talented at Texas Tech, throwing for 2,315 yards and 12 touchdowns as a freshman. Mayfield went from being benched for future NFL draft pick Davis Webb to a Heisman winner at Oklahoma. So I won't take away from the work Riley did with Mayfield. It is just worth mentioning, Mayfield wasn't a total unknown and had spent time in a college program with another great quarterbacks coach (Kliff Kingsbury).

Kyler Murray was next. He only spent two years with Riley after transferring from Texas A&M, and Murray finished with a Heisman as well. Murray was an elite runner and a great arm talent. Another transfer, another Heisman, another playoff.

Then it moved onto Jalen Hurts. While he was a step below the other two, he still had a Heisman level year after transferring from Alabama. Oklahoma had built their team on three transfer quarterbacks that resulted in four playoff appearances and two Heisman's. Oklahoma may have popularized this, but they are not the only ones following this system.

Georgia just brought in USC transfer JT Daniels and Wake Forest transfer Jamie Newman. Miami took on Ohio State transfer Tate Martell and Houston transfer D'Eriq King. Washington State head coach Mike Leach has started to pull from the transfer portal to find his starter for the year. LSU and Ohio State have also had extreme success with transfer quarterbacks too. Notre Dame doesn't have Justin Fields caliber QBs beating down their door to transfer in. However, Oklahoma didn't either which shows the players are out there.

Building Through Quantity

Notre Dame is a quarterback away from a title. If Notre Dame switched QBs with Clemson in 2018, Notre Dame could have won a championship. Missing out on an elite quarterback has held the Fighting Irish back from breaking through.

Recruiting isn't the issue. They have pulled multiple four-star recruits and even let a Top 100 overall quarterback walk out the door last year (Phil Jurkovec). Notre Dame has a real quarterback problem that has persisted for 10 years, they need to change up their approach.

Oklahoma took a chance on Mayfield and Murray. Both were very talented, but they weren't superstars when they were young. Mayfield was a walk-on at Texas Tech, and while Murray was a five-star recruit, he threw more picks than touchdowns in his one season with the Aggies.

Riley helped with development and had two guys hit. Hurts was established and already highly talented so he isn't in the same group. This is just to point out, Notre Dame doesn't need a generational talent to transfer in, just bring in more guys.

The college football landscape has changed. The years of bringing in a highly-touted recruit and building him up over five years are fading. If they are truly talented, they leave early for the NFL. If they get stuck on the bench to learn and develop, they transfer. So bring more talent in.

Bringing in more guys will drive up competition and you have a higher chance of one hitting. It would also be fair to believe that developing with another coach before heading to Notre Dame could skip over the developmental nightmare for Kelly.

Brandon Wimbush was benched in year two after failing to develop and improve his passing game. Ian Book made minimal improvements in year two and actually regressed in some areas. The coaching staff said the Top 100 overall QB, Phil Jurkovec wasn't ready after two years. So it would be fair to question that future development could be underwhelming despite the highly-rated recruits

It's also worth noting, about half of Kelly's QBs don't finish their career at Notre Dame. so it may feel very boom or bust to rely on a starter for one year. However, that is all Notre Dame really gets before the quarterback falls off in year two and eventually leaves. The transfer portal has upended college football and made it too easy for a player to leave. Talent is moving all over the country for a variety of reasons and Notre Dame can tap into it.

Oklahoma has proven that breaking out of the mold can pay off. Instead of living in a false sense of security with a veteran QB, Notre Dame should start pursuing transfer quarterbacks while keeping tabs on the recruiting trail.

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Comments (48)
No. 1-10

I agree with ND needing better QB play, better development, and I don’t have an issue with us going the transfer route (think we should have been in on JT Daniels)... but I can’t get behind the logic of ND being a QB away. I think that was true of the 2017 team because when Wimbush was playing well Notre Dame could beat anyone in the country. I also agree that in 2018 we beat Clemson if you swap QBs... but this staff has taken a major step back since 2017. I don’t believe the staff we have now can go toe to toe with the best in the country.


So in other words you'd take a transfer in over Book. Do you really think Martell was better than Book. I realize your not a Book guy you even prefer an untested Jurcovic. Don't you think it depends on who you can get? Let's say you risk losing Buchner. Would you lose Buchner over a transfer. I get your point but it depends on who you can get.


I disagree with you, I don't think we're just a QB away from a title. If we could get stellar, top 5 quality production from our offensive line, then we'd be a serious contender despite numerous other areas of concern. But that's several gears higher than we've played the last two years.


I agree if a Justin Fields, Jalen Hurts or Kyler Murray want to transfer to ND then let's do it. But the whole argument hinges on the development piece which ND still is greatly lacking. This year they'll have a QB room of Book, Clarke and Pyne and the next year they'll have Clark, Pyne and Buchner. I think that is enough talent to find a guy.


Riley and OU know how to win and rack up huge points and stats against the Big12...which has poor defenses and secondaries where superior talent will dominate.

Last time I looked...ND plays all over the country and all kinds of Power 5 opponents...most of them have fair to good to very good secondaries and defenses.

ND will do better than fine with Buchner-Pyne and Book for 2020 and maybe have a big powerful QB mixed in the 2022 class. This is an RPO offense predicated on accurate passes and every snap has a split second decision and reaction by the QB based on what the LB's and safeties are doing.

Riley and OU have a mad bomber approach which works great with WR speedsters and weak coverages in the Big12 . For ND's schedule---not so much.

ND wants to run the ball more and better and be more balanced and run clock when they need to close down a game in the 4th Quarter...Riley & OU aren't built that way either.


College game is definitely a QB based world and ND may have a great answer with Buchner coming on board. QB is not the only missing piece IMO.

They also need to elevate their RB talent---potentially Chris Tyree and some other RB help get them closer (Taylor knows how to get RB's sharp)---and some more talent on Defensive line/DT's/NG's and some solid talent for DB's.

They are very close and have closed the gap talent and coaching wise the past 2-3 years.

Bringing in outside "QB gunslingers" and disrupting the QB room and revamping the offense in general may be a double edged sword. It took Joe Burrow awhile to make waves and it took a brand new OC to finally pay off.

Books stats from 2019 were as good or better than Burrow's for it's not just a "QB upgrade away"solution for ND.

ND's WR's and OL and TE's and much of the defense are "there" now...

I like Clark-Pyne-Buchner and big QB for 2022 class for QB...outsiders/transfer portals QB guys may work for a lot of programs...but the formula may not work for ND because ND is a whole different place than State U football factories.

17 Replies


Strongly disagree we’ve closed the gap coaching wise the last 2-3 years.. I thought in 2017 we had, but it’s been downhill since then with the addition of Quinn and the promotion of Rees..


I strongly disagree with your opinion. Lots of very solid progress since 2017...not sure what lense you're operating under or what your sweeping generality comments are based on. I'd like to see what your facts are... not some negative opinion

Some people like to complain and only see that we haven't won an NC yet....there's a lot more positive things going on with the program than we've had for the past 15-20 years.


Coaches Lea-Elston-Taylor-Elston-Rees-McNulty-Mickens-Balis for S&C-Polian and Bill Rees for scouting/recruiting....please name me some better staffs from ND's past and from other competitor programs.

Curious to see what you come up with...not easy to beat that line up...for now or before from ND's history.

Bryan Driskell
Bryan Driskell


The 2017 staff was obviously better than the current staff. I would argue the 2015 offensive staff was definitely better than the the current offensive staff, even with Sanford as the QB coach. The offensive staff took a step back from an OC standpoint, hard to argue against that.

From a competition standpoint, there are several programs better than ND from an overall standpoint. Big 10 wise, OSU clearly has a better staff, and I think an argument could be made that Michigan now has a better overall staff now that Long is gone. The defense staff at ND is comparable, perhaps even better, but the offensive staff is not as good as Michigan's at this point, which is sad. I liked the McNulty hire for sure, but the rest is below Michigan. Wisconsin has a better coaching staff, and I'd argue Purdue has closed the gap with ND, although I'd argue ND's overall staff is still better. I'd also say Penn State has a better staff right now.

ACC wise right now Clemson clearly has a better staff. North Carolina isn't there yet, and ND's defensive staff is better, but they are definitely gaining on ND and are certainly out-recruiting Notre Dame right now.

Alabama has a better staff, Georgia has a better staff, LSU has a better staff, Texas A&M has a better staff and I'd argue Florida has a better staff, but it's close.

Oklahoma has a better staff. Oregon has a better staff.

Those are all off the top of my head.


Quinn had the #2 Pass protection OL in D-I per PFF and a top 20 OL all together.
He knew the ND offense and the whole program versus bringing in some outsider who knew nothing about ND--did not know the OL players-and did not know the coaching staff or schemes.

Overall, I'd say he did an excellent job. You can Monday Morning QB all you want...that's a tough act to replicate as an outside OL hire coming in to ND...and look at what the OL did in the Bowl game when they finally had a real run game plan put together. Scored the longets TD in ND Bowl History and had 250+ yards overall...imagine that.

Rees and the rest of the offensive coaches like Taylor, McNulty and Quinn will work as a unit and collaborate much more than Long's OC room operated. Rees knows the schemes, playbook, personnel and is open to taking input from his NFL & College experienced staff and has made a renewed emphasis on the run game and a more balanced offense approach.

Still earl,y but I think Rees & Company will do fine with a new attitude and approach to the same play book. Bringing in a brand new OC has it's issues and a lot of unknowns. ND is not any easy place to operate and different rules apply and some outsiders have a learning curve and with already having a solid offense---why turn the program inside out with a big jolt for a new OC?

Bryan Driskell
Bryan Driskell


Wait, who are you saying did an excellent job?


Overall the complete staff ability and having a solid & consistent program track and scheme to implement for a string of seasons....including S&C...not just the Offense one year and some other group another year is the point that I'm trying to make.

Taylor-McNulty-Mickens-Recruiting staff of Polian and Bill Rees (and set up by Elston originally) and others who do a real thorough job like Vinny Cerrato did for Holtz....there's a lot to like for the entire staff make up as a whole today.

This is one of the better groups that they've had in a while and Kelly has made some good hires and 33-6 is the real indication.

You can complain all you want about hiring an OL or OC from the outside and rolling the dice and hoping it all somehow meshes at a program like ND that is a lot more "family" like and a lot harder to recruit at many places because of the academic rules.

There are pros and cons to either argument. Outside or inside hires??

Saban has had to replace his OC in Locksley and DC's in Smart and Pruitt and it's not painless or smooth all of the time. As big a juggernaut as Bama has it's affect. Lou Holtz had they same outsiders coming in with good and mixed results too over his seasons.

Some of these outside hires have one foot out the door looking for another job after a season is done or to make a jump to the NFL---

Kelly's tried to be pragmatic and get both internal stability and quality hires who will hang around for more than a cup of coffee....and who knows what the perfect answer could have do your best and move on.

Quinn and Rees are not perfect but they had a lot of the "instant on/ready day one" and critical people & scheme fit qualities for ND that no outside hire could ever hope to have coming in.

Quinn did not call the plays---he only did his best to get the OL ready and when they went to 2-3 TE's run game clicked and all season long for Pass Pro---they did better than OK. He's a good OL coach and decent recruiter so far.


None other than the much maligned Jeff Quinn...His five OL guys graded out very well per PFF for 2019 and in today's pre season, they are rated as one of the best OL's in the country. An Opinion that you have written about among several other sources.

You also wrote a comparison for Liam Eichenberg that showed him on track to be as good as other previous ND NFL high draft picks at LT. Coaching had something to do with that.

He even had two key starters get injured and the OL continued to play well.


ND falls into the top 10-15 staffs these days frpm what you are saying...which is a lot better than before when ND didn't pay large salaries---couldn't have 35 "staff members/assistants' associated with the program.

ND doesn't pay and spend as freely as these other programs...and probably never will...but they've closed the gap. OSU and Bama and UGA have vast sums of money and football is #1 for them...and they just happen to have a university associated with them to keep things legal....joking....only a little.

So out of 129 programs in D-I, Notre Dame as the third smallest under grad enrollment of 8500 students and a private Catholic University with no state funding...has a top 10-15 football staff with smaller staff sizes allowed and smaller salaries permitted by ND.

On a weighted average scale/handicapping system, that's about as good as it can possibly get for ND and I think they can compete and out scheme and win against the Goliaths...but it won't be easy.

So yeah...other programs with vast resources and fewer staffing.assistant restrictions will be better on average...but we're only talking about 10-12 programs total...I can live with that.

And my point that there were not too many better staffs at ND historically or just a few staffs at Top Tier Football factory monsters is not too far off.

ND will never...ever... have the best or largest staff. But they are much more competitive now.


Strong n True, you make some fair points. However, I think it's absolutely ridiculous to assume that 1. Notre Dame doesn't have enough money to compete for national championships, and 2. Notre Dame cannot recruit with the "Goliaths". To use your two example schools, Ohio State has an endowment of 5.26 billion, and Bama has an endowment of 1.7 billion. Notre Dame's is 13. 8 billion; they absolutely have the money to compete with anyone. As for recruiting, you do you. If you do not believe that there are 20-25 high school football players in the US that would fit in at ND and play high level football, then I'd say you're being disingenuous. This is not Vanderbilt, or Tulane, or Stanford.

Bryan Driskell
Bryan Driskell


To say ND will never have the best staff is not accurate, at all. They won't ever have the highest paid staff, but to say they can't have the best, or one of the best, isn't accurate.

Also, comparing ND's staff now to previous staffs is irrelevant. There's a reason those coaches got fired.

Comparing Notre Dame's enrollment is also useless and pointless. It has nothing to do with money coming in.

Let's look at the nation's top football programs and their endowments:

Notre Dame - $13.8 billion
Clemson - $774.5 million
Florida St - $704.1 million
Alabama - $845.9 million
LSU - $521 million
Georgia - $1.3 billion
Florida - $1.83 billion
Oklahoma - $1.74 billion
Texas - $4.0 billion
Ohio State - $5.26 billion
Michigan - $12.4 billion
Penn State - $3.0 billion
Oregon - $775.0 million
USC - $5.73 billion
Washington - $2.94 billion

Notre Dame can pay their coaches much better, there is plenty of money. But none of that has anything to do with whether or not Notre Dame can have a great staff.

Does anyone in their right mind think that Urban Meyer or Nick Saban or Dabo Swinney would have hired Tommy Rees as their OC, or Jeff Quinn as the OL coach? The reason they were both hired has NOTHING to do with money or cost.

Bryan Driskell
Bryan Driskell


Yeah I'm bowing out of this discussion. If you're trying to say Quinn did a good job last year we aren't talking reality. I have better things to do.


Why hire an outside OC like Moorehead? I don’t know, Maybe to take the next step towards competing for a title.
You seem to be one that is perfectly content with just beating the Navy’s and Pitts of the world. Notre Dame should strive for more .

And where was the offensive line against Georgia and Michigan last year? Notre Dame in 2019 basically had a two game schedule, and we couldn’t establish the run in either.

This isn’t a Monday morning QB opinion, Jeff Quinn is proving to be exactly what I thought he was when he was hired. A decent OC who can coach a finesse pass blocking offensive line, but cannot lead a physical run blocking group and cannot recruit. We’re seeing both come to fruition.

As far as Tommy Rees, I’m on record that I could have gotten behind the hire IF Quinn was replaced so he had an oline to lean on. And I say that believing Rees absolutely hadn’t done anything to deserve the promotion. His first QB was benched because he regressed, and his 2nd QB regressed to the point he should have been benched and only wasn’t because he couldn’t develop the backup...

You’re basing a lot of faith in Rees/Quinn based off ND destroys an 8-5 Iowa State team. Show me that Quinn can have his line compete against the elite instead of being a liability and we’ll talk. He hasn’t shown that at any point in his career.

As far as the entire staff, it was better in 2017, far better. The only upgrades since that time are Taylor and Mickens... Rees and Quinn are major downgrades both as coaches and recruiters.

And don’t get me wrong, I love what Bill Rees has done from a scouting perspective, but the overall recruiting operation under Kelly is substandard. There is zero accountability.

33-6 is nice, and it should show fans that ND is a place that can still win titles if the right coaching hire is made to get us there. Kelly has just lost the fire to do it.


This is from Football Outsiders for the last two years in terms of run metrics specifically in relation to the OL (it isn't pretty):


Line YPC: 2.3 (No. 106 in the FBS)

Standard down line YPC: 2.41 (88)

Passing down line YPC: (120)

Opportunity rate: 42.3% (112)

Power success rate: 78.3 (23)

Stuff rate: 24.1 (121)


Line YPC: 2.56 (No. 62 in FBS)

Standard down line YPC: 2.43 (78)

Passing down line YPC: 2.98 (42)

Opportunity rate: 46% (81)

Power success rate: 62.2% (106)

Stuff rate: 19.2% (70)

For explanation on the different metrics and more data:

Bryan Driskell
Bryan Driskell


To summarize, the run blocking at ND has sucked the last two years.


Haha, that is probably putting it more succinctly.


I’ll say this again... who would have ever guessed when Jeff Quinn was hired that he would struggle with run blocking and recruiting? I mean, there is zero way anyone could have foreseen this coming.


It's about time somebody wrote this're Notre Dame and we can't get a good QB. That and how awful of a play caller Chip Long is. I got High School kids that can call a better game. I am glad he is gone and putting my faith in TOMMY!


The QBs that left ND went on to do very little. Crist, Golson, Zaire, Kiel, And most went to Offensive minded coaches like Weis and Jimbo Fisher. The jury is out on Phil J but history is not on his side. Seems like it’s a talent problem and not a development problem. Because if any of those guys who left had major talent. It should have come out at the next stop or as an NFL FA.


Coach D, you state: Also, the whole problem I have with Kelly and his staff's inability to develop QBs is the fact mentally the QBs get beat down, and that is not something most QBs come back from.
That begs the question: Do you think Rees will likely be able to change that dynamic, given his experience with BK?


Mr. Palmieri thank you once again for your unique perspective on all things inept at ND. You certainly have a laundry list of items from which to choose....unfortunately!

It's hard to argue against the history of qb failures that you cite during Kelly's reign of error.

I'm not sold on the idea that ND is just a xfer port hole prospect away from an NC. Kelly has left too many other recruiting and coaching gaffes in the program to overcome the savior QB.

Kelly's epic failures in regular season big games and post season NC opportunities are indicative of the talent voids, recruiting voids and coaching foibles.

Keep up the great work. I look forward to your next unique perspective.