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The Journal Gazette

  • Dylan Sinn | The Journal Gazette Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chip Long warms up on the driving range Monday at Orchard Ridge Country Club before playing in the Notre Dame Club of Fort Wayne's annual golf outing.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019 1:00 am

Irish coach wants QB battle

Offensive coordinator in town for annual golf outing

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

While the oppressive heat over the weekend in Fort Wayne made it feel like the chilly Saturdays of college football season are a long way away, Notre Dame is already well into preparations for a repeat trip to the College Football Playoff.

On offense, those preparations include less suspense at the quarterback position than in the last two years, when Ian Book and Brandon Wimbush battled throughout camp for the job. This year, Book is cemented as the starter while Phil Jurkovec will be the backup. 

Still, offensive coordinator Chip Long says it is important that Jurkovec, a redshirt freshman, is ready to play.

“I hope there's a quarterback battle,” Long said. “I need Phil to come on and really pressure Ian. Two seasons in a row our backup quarterback's had to start a game, so anybody has to be ready.”

Long, who is entering his third season leading the Notre Dame offense, was in the Summit City on Monday as a guest at the Notre Dame Club of Fort Wayne's annual golf outing, which took place at Orchard Ridge Country Club. Between booming shots with a hybrid club on the driving range, Long said he appreciated being able to visit the city.

“Obviously it's a great opportunity to come out here and meet different fans from all across the state,” said Long in his Alabama accent. “It's my first time in Fort Wayne and it just gives me an opportunity to meet a lot of people from around the state who are Notre Dame grads and fans.”

The annual golf outing has traditionally played host to an Irish assistant coach. Quarterbacks coach Tommy Rees came to Fort Wayne in 2017 and special teams coordinator Brian Polian was in town last year. The money raised from the outing – which cost $125 to play in, plus $20 extra to buy a couple of mulligans – goes to Notre Dame students through scholarships or support for Summer Service Projects, where students work for eight weeks in a nonprofit organization.

“We're really excited to have Coach Long here,” said Notre Dame Club president Jacob Benedict, a 2007 graduate of the university. “That's a big draw. We always get a lot of golfers, but if we can get one of the coaches from the team, it just builds the level of excitement, especially since football season is just around the corner.”

The Irish open their season Sept. 2 with a road game against Louisville. Notre Dame officially begins preparations for the season Aug. 3 when fall camp begins, but in reality the team has been preparing for another CFP push almost from the moment it walked off the field after its Cotton Bowl loss to Clemson. 

“We're really excited (for camp to start),” Long said. “This time of year, guys have worked really hard. (Strength) Coach (Matt) Balis has done a great job again this summer. You see a lot of chemistry starting to develop within the group, good leadership throughout. Guys are ready to finish up (summer workouts) strong then report to camp.”

The Irish's fate one year after an undefeated regular season will rest significantly on Book's shoulders. The senior quarterback accounted for 23 touchdowns in 2018 and completed nearly 70% of his passes, but will have to assume a larger mentoring role this season as a veteran starter.

“(Ian's) done a really good job stepping forward with his leadership,” Long said. “Him, Chase (Claypool), Chris Finke, the veterans we have on our offense, I've been really proud of.”

dsinn@jg.net