The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, April 07, 2021 1:00 am

Fight on for Irish starting QB job

'Good battle' between Coan, Pyne in spring

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

Jack Coan has not been anointed the Notre Dame quarterback.

Though Coan is the only quarterback on the Irish roster with collegiate starting experience and despite the fact that he was honorable mention All-Big Ten at Wisconsin in 2019, coach Brian Kelly has insisted that the competition to replace three-year starter Ian Book is open and heated in the early days of spring practice.

“What we wanted is a battle between Jack Coan and Drew Pyne,” Kelly said. “It's a good battle there. ... We evaluate that from day to day. One day we'll see good things from Jack and the next day we see really good things from Drew.

“That's a battle that continues to take shape.”

Pyne, a redshirt freshman, and Coan, a fifth-year senior who transferred to Notre Dame in January for his final season of eligibility, are the front-runners to replace Book, who is headed to the NFL after winning a program-record 30 games.

Neither aspirant to the position is bothered by the idea of competing for it.

Pyne, a four-star recruit from New Canaan, Connecticut, who received a scholarship offer from Alabama in eighth grade, has the advantage of knowing the playbook. Coan, who was originally committed to play lacrosse at Notre Dame before his football stock skyrocketed, has the experience of playing 19 college games against top-flight competition.

The 6-foot-3 Coan was a Notre Dame fan growing up and is adjusting to playing in a more up-tempo, pass-heavy offense than the run-first system that prevailed at Wisconsin. He also dived head-first into the process of becoming a team leader, despite needing to form new relationships across the board.

“You come into a room of all new guys and try to get to know all of them personally, their stories, who they are,” Coan said. “I think that's a huge part of being a leader is being a guy who can have a relationship with everyone.”

Kelly and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Tommy Rees have ensured that Coan and Pyne get equal work with the first-team offense in spring practice and both have made some highlight-reel throws in the videos of Notre Dame has released publicly.

This is a competition that likely won't be settled in the spring, especially because it could soon gain another challenger. That would be true freshman Tyler Buchner, a five-star recruit who was the No. 3 dual-threat quarterback in the country in the 2021 class.

He enrolled early at Notre Dame and is using his time in spring practice to knock off the rust from not playing for a full year.

California, where he went to high school, moved its high school football season to the spring this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Early in camp, Kelly said the highly touted Buchner was just trying to feel good about the basics of the offense, but the coach called his precocious pupil a “quick study” and noted he was impressed by Buchner's performance in a scrimmage Saturday, in which he ran the ball well a couple of times.

“It was nice to see (Buchner) out there,” Kelly said. “He had a smile on his face, he had some confidence.”

The race to replace Book is just getting started.

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