What It Means: Notre Dame's QB Position Without Jurkovec

Bryan Driskell

As was reported earlier, Notre Dame sophomore quarterback Phil Jurkovec has entered his name in the transfer portal and intends to transfer. I want to dive more into why Jurkovec is leaving and what happens next for the Fighting Irish.

THE REASONS

This decision by Jurkovec goes far beyond playing time. It was obvious that Notre Dame’s staff had little to no interest in allowing either Jurkovec or current freshman Brendon Clark to have a chance to unseat Ian Book for the starting position. Beyond that, public and private comments made by Notre Dame sources made it clear that Jurkovec wasn’t even seen as the quarterback of the future.

Instead of focusing on the skills Jurkovec brings to the table, the discussion was constantly about what he couldn’t do. It was clear from those comments that his style of play was not something the current staff covets.

Some on the Notre Dame side of things were already talking about current high school junior Tyler Buchner coming in and starting as a freshman in 2021. Head coach Brian Kelly said during the season that if he felt Jurkovec could help the team win he would play him, so clearly Kelly didn’t feel Jurkovec could help the team. The fact Notre Dame never put him in any kind of meaningful game situation backs that up.

Multiple sources I have spoken with also mentioned a strained relationship between Jurkovec and his position coach.

These are the reasons Jurkovec chose to transfer now instead of waiting a year, seeing how things played out in the spring and fall, and getting his Notre Dame degree. 

Look at it from the player’s point of view. With all the comments made about him publicly and privately, how much confidence would you have that the next year would involve the coaches working hard to develop you as a player?

It would essentially be a wasted year in many ways. The only reason to come back is to hope that Book gets injured and you get your chance, and anyone that’s know Jurkovec or his family knows he would never, ever want that to happen or allow that to factor into any of his decisions, just like Book never would have wished that on Brandon Wimbush when he was a backup.

By leaving now, Jurkovec gets a chance to find a program that believes in him, wants him in the program and will invest in developing him as a player. Also, anyone that follows college football has seen quarterback after quarterback get a transfer waiver to play right away. If half of the things I’ve been told by sources are true, Jurkovec will have a case to get an automatic release.

This will not be appreciated by some and will be rejected by others, but this isn’t just my opinion or “read” on the situation, this is coming from spending the last few months gathering information from a wide variety of sources.

WHAT IT MEANS FOR 2020 AND BEYOND

First and foremost, this ends any discussion among the fan base about opening up the quarterback competition. This is Book’s team.

Book stayed healthy in 2019, and Notre Dame will need him to be healthy again in 2020. Otherwise, Notre Dame will be forced to play redshirt freshman Brendon Clark or true freshman Drew Pyne. Both are talented players, and like Jurkovec in 2019 they will lack experience.

Both Clark and Pyne have tools that would allow them to thrive should their number be called, but from an analysis standpoint I’m of the belief that Jurkovec was the quarterback on the roster that gave Notre Dame the best chance to beat the best teams on the schedule in 2020, if developed properly.

But the other young quarterbacks are also talented. Both earned four-star grades in my analysis, and Clark has borderline five-star upside when you consider his combination of arm strength and athleticism. Pyne is a precision passer, he’s smart and he’s a gamer that loves to compete.

Here is my analysis of Clark from my final 2019 rankings:

“Clark has the kind of build you want in a quarterback that will be asked to play in the pocket and also make plays with his legs. He is also a good athlete, which we saw this summer when at 6-2 and 213 pounds he ran a 4.74 in the 40-yard dash, posted a 4.37 pro shuttle and jumped 32.5 inches at the Nike Football The Opening Regional at Charlotte in April.

“Clark will need work mechanically, but he has a lot of tools as a passer. He has a strong arm and is an effortless thrower. At times he is a bit too much of an “all arm” thrower, but that can be worked out quickly with good coaching. When he does drive off his back foot the ball jumps out of his hand. Clark throws a really nice deep ball and his touch in the red zone is outstanding. He is a fearless thrower as well and puts a lot of balls into tough spots.

“His delivery is a bit long and there is room for him to improve from an accuracy standpoint, but he does have good arm speed, he shows a good feel for ball placement and he throws with really good timing. Combined with his arm strength, his timing and feel for ball placement is why he throws so few interceptions. I've also seen him make some really tough downfield throws in really bad weather conditions, which is important for a quarterback playing at Notre Dame.

“Clark shows a good feel in the pocket, and his pocket presence makes him hard to sack. He anticipates pressure well and quickly works out of trouble. What I like is that even though he'll tuck it, run and make plays with his legs, his first thought is to step away from trouble and still be in position to throw the ball. Clark does a good job keeping his eyes downfield when he's moving around, which makes him a dangerous player due to his ability to get the ball down the field and over the top of the defense.

“As a senior he was even more effective as a runner, both on scrambles and on designed runs, which added to his value and improved upside grade.”

Clark will need a lot of work and development, but if he maxes out his potential he can be a difference maker at Notre Dame as a both a passer and runner. He is also a winner, having led his Manchester squad to a 15-0 record and a state title in his senior season.

Pyne and Clark are opposites in many ways, but Pyne is also a player that earned a four-star grade from me. Here’s what I wrote about Pyne from the 2020 class analysis:

“Pyne was a four-year starter for New Canaan, and the talented signal caller ended his career with 9,411 passing yards, 105 passing touchdowns, 1,182 rushing yards, 20 rushing touchdowns and he completed 63.1-percent of his 1,111 career passes.

“Pyne lacks the physical intangibles of other top quarterbacks. He’s on the small side and he doesn’t have the cannon arm we see is other top players at his position. But Pyne brings the more important traits that make a top quarterback prospect. Pyne is smart, reads defenses well, shows excellent anticipation ability for his age, he is accurate and he’s both mentally and physically tough. His feel for the position is as good as any quarterback in the country.

“Pyne has a lightning quick release that is easily repeatable, and when his footwork is right he’s highly accurate. His quick release and ability to anticipate allows him to get the ball out on time, and helps ease his lack of elite arm talent. While he doesn’t have a cannon, Pyne’s arm is strong enough to push the ball downfield. I’ve seen him hit receivers in stride on post routes over 40 yards down the field., and that’s before he gets in a college weight room. He also gets very good zip on throws of less than 15 yards and he quickly gets the ball out with good zip on out cuts and comeback throws.

“New Canaan didn’t provide Pyne with much protection as a senior, which limited his production, but it also showed Pyne’s pocket mobility, toughness, and top-level pocket presence and pocket mobility. The one critique I have of him in this regard is when Pyne is running around he lets the ball get a bit too far away from his body. Pyne does throw quite well on the run by keeping his eyes downfield, he attacks downhill and he snaps the ball off with good accuracy and velocity.

“At times Pyne will rush his throws, especially in the quick game/RPO, but overall his mechanics are top notch. He keeps a good base in the pocket, he uses his core to throw and his follow through is impressive.”

Buchner will certainly be given a chance to compete for the starting job in 2021, especially now that Jurkovec is no longer in the mix. But do not assume the very talented 2021 commit will just walk in and take the job over, at least not if Clark and Pyne are given a chance to develop and shine. The quarterback roster moving forward remains talented, even with Jurkovec - who I view as having the most talent - transferring out.

The question now becomes the same as it has always been under Kelly, will the quarterbacks be developed? If so, the Irish should be good at the position.

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Comments (110)
No. 1-27
card44spf
card44spf

We need a new coaching staff.

Jpirish58
Jpirish58

As I stated before, I wish PJ the best. Its not a popular opinion, but I would rather have a QB that stays and tries to prove the others wrong. Cutting and running is the easy way out. I now can see why your not a fan Rees and Kelly. PJ wasnt the 2nd coming of Lawerence at Clemson or Fields at OSU. at least from what I can See Does he have a Cannon arm?. Yes I'm sure he can out throw anyone on the roster. Is he the Anointed One? Nope not if he cant stay and Fight. Sorry. Everything cant be Kellys fault. We will never agree on this but ND has a Better chance at winning next year with Book not PJ.

ND Dad
ND Dad

I think Pine is going to surprise everyone. He his the IT.factor . I can't hardly wait.

BuddhaND
BuddhaND

Coach, this may be a dumb question, but why did ND recruit Jurkovec in the first place? It's not like Long and Rees weren't part of the evaluation process during his recruitment. How/why did they sour on him so quickly?

PhilJerkrules
PhilJerkrules

Just a mess. Phil was going to be awesome. ND did a bad job handling him from day one. Another reason to have a more experienced qb coach

Jherbeck91
Jherbeck91

Why can’t Kelly develop a QB?? As excited as I am about the QBs coming in I’m nervous because they don’t pan out at ND

MGP
MGP

QBs don't do well under Kelly. Once he locks in on one, the won't care about the development of the others. Same old story with Kelly

FamousAmos
FamousAmos

Ok so all this leads me to this question: If Ian Book left for the draft... would Phil still be in the transfer portal today? My first instinct would be to say absolutely NOT!

The more I’ve read, and the more that’s getting tossed around I get the feeling like he was going in the portal regardless of what happened with Ian Book. Just another offseason of being a ND fan! One snap away from Clark or Pyne being the guy.

Fitz1105
Fitz1105

Well this offseason is pretty much going the opposite of how I wanted it, save the recruiting class. Now we just need to bring back BVG and promote Ian Book to QB/Offensive Coordinator with Tom Rees as a mentor and my nightmare will be fully realized

KMoore-24
KMoore-24

10-2 here we come.

Grace78
Grace78

I guess it must have been a personality thing. Unless he gets an exception (and I don't see how he can, unless he claims Chip was fired and he recruited him?) he would've been in a better position to be the backup (it is unusual for a QB to play every down without some dings) in 2020 and then be the guy in 2021. Hell, ND has tons of talent on the OL and elite (if yet unproven) talent in the skill positions. I remember being very impressed with how he ran the ball in HS... Maybe he'll back up Tanner at Minnesota and then row the boat in 2021. Best of luck, Phil.

Grace78
Grace78

To be honest, Book was going to be the guy anyway... and we all saw just how NFL ready Kmet was. This is the new college football. Look at what is happening at Wisconsin! They have had 4 guys go early (three lineman) and now a TransPort guy.

irish_polak
irish_polak

It seems Kelly isn't a fan of QBs who have a lot of raw ability which needs to be developed and prefers qbs who are precision passers. If this is the case, why recruit PJ in the first place? It seems PJ and Wimbush have a lot of similarities...very athletic, huge arms, but need some development and both got passed over for a less athletic, weaker arm but more precise thrower.

If this trend holds true it seems Clark will get passed over for Pyne and I almost fear what Buchner will face when he arrives.

Escalibore
Escalibore

Did you mean to say that PJ had conflict with his OC and not his position coach? I can understand PJ having conflict with Long, but Rees?

Jpirish58
Jpirish58

I read the article, I wished PJ well I give guys more credit for proving the critics wrong. Nothing personal vs PJ. I guess some of your minions and perhaps you dont think i belong on your site. Well you want lemmings you can have them. Kelly isnt perfect, he has made bad decisions or mistakes, but Its not my job to defend him Bryan you dont like Kelly or Rees and it shows in your articles.

MadIrish75
MadIrish75

Excellent story. Keep it coming. People need to held accountable. Kelly needs to be held accountable.

Irishcrazy
Irishcrazy

Hey Mikey, if your boss talks shit on you and you don’t trust him are you staying in your job or looking for a place to grow and develop? Look, BK made it real clear where things stood , he gave PJ no choice. You don’t stay at a place if they don’t want you. Would have given JB the same advice , stay at Ohio St and battle. ?

Irishcrazy
Irishcrazy

Such a good point. Shame on you, you pathetic domers. No one loves ND more than me, but this was such a screw up by BK and the staff. Lay down some ownership on this.

IrishTom2
IrishTom2

I think the biggest thing that bothers me (amongst many aspects of this situation) is that we really will never know the true impact of this.

If BK had played PJ more running the real offense during all the blowouts this season - which he very obviously should have - we all would have gotten to see what he is capable of. Like you, I believe he would have looked good. But even if he hadn't, at least we would have that in mind today.

Instead, we never got to see him really play. He'll go to a new school and then what? If he fails, does that prove he wasn't going to do well at ND? I don't think so. And if he succeeds, the same could be said - that wouldn't have necessarily happened at ND (though an argument could be made that him succeeding at another school proves this was the huge mistake most of us think it is by BK).

Either way, it's not apples to apples at a new school, with new coaches, a new system, a new supporting roster, etc. And as a result, now it'll be hard to ever really know what could have been.

Too bad.

DoubleDomer
DoubleDomer

Yesterday, before the news that Jurkovec was transferring, I had typed up a comment and reply to Bryan under your story about considering Moorhead as OC. I posted the comment a before the above story, but it’s amazing how great minds think alike here. 21 hours ago, here’s what I wrote (after deleting my introductory sentence):

....I have to admit that when I first heard Denbrock being floated, I thought it was just some fan-driven internet nonsense. The most confusing thing about it to me is why Denbrock would be interested. IMO, he was a superb rep of ND. He also was a good to very good recruiting coordinator and he gets my vote as the best position coach BK has utilized on the offensive side of the ball. But he seemed to have blame and mistrust from BK right before Denbrock left. I thought both sides seemed to handle the parting well, but in my mind a reunion seemed incredibly unlikely. And what’s changed?

While I’m commenting on puzzling behavior, I have HR, business, and experience as attorney. In those worlds, you do the job first and then often get the titles and full entrustment of responsibilities. I think incredibly highly of Coach Rees as an individual and trust he’s been a good to very good QB coach. But from a distanced outsiders’ perspective, he’s “coached” & “developed” Wimbush, Book and to a lesser extent Jurkovec. How many think those players demonstrated marked and obvious improvements under Rees’ tutelage? IMO, he hasn’t even distinguished himself as the best QB coach BK has had. If that’s true, then why would ND’s CEO reward him with the primary leadership position of the offense, which accounts for about 40 players when he hasn’t learned to get the absolute best out of the 3 guys he has mainly coached? Or even if you think he’s done a fantastic job as a coach, why name him as the leader to other assistants — some of whom could improve quite a bit themselves? That’s extremely puzzling to me. And I’m with you Bryan, I’ve had to do roles I wasn’t quite ready for in my career as a lawyer and that’s set me back. I think being OC at this stage will hurt Rees’ career and he could become a star coach if he makes good decisions.

NDMIKE
NDMIKE

2 years to beat out BOOK and he couldn't do it!! They had to tell him in the spring to step up or they would move on from him to CLARKE! Potential doesnt win games, players do. He looked like a 4th stringer in the Blue/Gold game, horrible passes, poor footwork slow release. We didn't lose a starting QB just one who didn't show enough to keep.

Jpirish58
Jpirish58

No you obviously don't understand and you don't respect my point of view. In any case good luck and just because someone doesn't agree with your opinion that person isnt a buffoon or a idiot. They just look at the situation differently.

YamahaR1
YamahaR1

If I was Phil, I’d be sure to share my experience with the incoming guys. BK and his staff have a history with not developing these guys, and in just about every case under BK, a total regression for the 2nd year starters. I feel bad for this kid and was really excited when we got him. He helped keep that class together and recruited for us. Payback would be on my mind, but he’s probably a much better person than I am.

green machine
green machine

All of these quarterbacks come to ND as good recruits. That doesn't mean they are going to develop into a great quarterback. In fact very very few of these recruits will end up being a starter much less being a star. Besides a kids talent and work ethic there is the factor of who are the coaches at the time who are developing the QB and then there is the factor of timing. When the recruit enters the school, who are the coaches and who is his competition and then there is injuries. This whole thing is fluid and you can't blame the outcome on any one in particular because the whole situation is in a constant state of flux. Next up, PJ departs and DP arrives...........and oh yes now we are going to have a new OC.............and then the whole dance begins anew.

Irishcrazy
Irishcrazy

I think Ian Book should put his name in the transfer portal.

smcnd
smcnd

Thanks for reposting your thoughts on Clark.


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