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.
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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