I look forward to Drew Pyne playing more against Cincinnati as the Notre Dame quarterback.
I don’t know if it’ll happen. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly was understandably cryptic about his quarterback situation, which is fluid because Jack Coan sprained his ankle against Wisconsin and Tyler Buchner has been hampered with a hamstring injury.
For what it’s worth, Coan was listed as the starter.
On Tuesday, he walked without any kind of a limp across the indoor practice facility at the Irish Athletic Facility at the end of practice.
But this is the perfect opportunity to test Pyne for extended play.
First, he’s healthy, and second, Pyne looked good against Wisconsin after a bad start. On his second series, he was sacked on a blindside hit and fumbled.
That led to a Wisconsin field goal which gave the Badgers a 13-10 fourth quarter lead.
But he was good enough on his next drive, hitting Kevin Austin for a 16-yard touchdown pass to cap off a drive in which he went 4-4 for 49 yards. Pyne finished 6-8 passing for 81 yards and a score.
The elephant in the room that needs to be acknowledged is that Coan has taken 19 sacks.
We all get it.
The offensive line isn’t competent. It could be the worst offensive line in the Kelly era.
Yet not all of those sacks can be attributed to the line. Coan is responsible for roughly a third of them.
Take away the Florida State game, and the offense has moved inconsistently under Coan.
Sure, he had the spectacular final drive against Toledo that ended with the 18-yard TD pass to Michael Mayer.
But there have been long stretches in all four games where the offense hasn’t effectively moved the ball under Coan. Kelly has said that there has been a transition from the behind-the-center setup at Wisconsin to ND’s shotgun system.
The implicit message: Coan hasn’t completely figured out the timing of the offense, and he’s not prone to run the ball when the line caves.
Which happens frequently.
It’s hard to know if the offensive line is more responsible for the inconsistent offensive production if it’s Coan, or more likely, a combination of both.
But it’s time to find out if someone can do better. That someone is Pyne.
Pyne is more mobile, and his arm strength is comparable. His only weakness is out of his control.
He’s listed as a shade under 6-0 in the Notre Dame media guide. Pyne has never looked the part. He's made up for it with his confidence and his skills, which are solid.
Pyne also doesn’t have the “transition” issue. He was here last year, learning the system. He knows how to make quick reads and accurate passes. The playbook shouldn’t have to be pared down when Pyne plays.
The other factor is Coan’s ankle. If there is a hint of an issue with it, why play him with an offensive line that is as leaky as a sieve?
If the argument is that Pyne, over an extended period of time, will struggle once defenses adjust, I say, it’s time to find out.
It could be obvious if the sack totals go down and the running game improves that Pyne creates more options for the offense.
The truth is there doesn’t appear to be that much difference between Coan and Pyne, aside from the mobility factor. Could that be a bad take? Again, real-time experience for Pyne will give us the answer.
The best part about this conversation, and this is a credit to Kelly, is that the Irish have three good options at quarterback.
When Kelly says he jokes about not wanting a quarterback controversy, he’s only got himself and his staff to blame.
They’ve created a three-headed monster. It’s a problem that a lot of coaches wish they had.
Irish Breakdown Content
Become a premium Irish Breakdown member, which grants you access to all of our premium content, our premium message board and gets you a FREE subscription to Sports Illustrated! Click on the link below for more
Be sure to stay locked into Irish Breakdown all the time!
Join the Irish Breakdown community!
Subscribe to the Irish Breakdown YouTube channel
Subscribe to the Irish Breakdown podcast on iTunes
Follow me on Twitter: @MikeHuttonPT
Like and follow Irish Breakdown on Facebook