Notre Dame's quarterback carousel continued to spin Monday, when Irish coach Brian Kelly announced that Jack Coan would once again be the starter for Saturday's rivalry matchup with USC.
Kelly and offensive coordinator Tommy Rees also expect true freshman Tyler Buchner to get some snaps against the Trojans.
“Jack Coan continues to be the guy that we feel like gives us the best chance to win,” Kelly said Monday. “(It will be) a mixture of him with Tyler Buchner, I think both of them. (Backup quarterback) Drew (Pyne) has done some really good things for us. If we feel like we're in a situation where we need to call on him, we would.”
Kelly's announcement comes a week after Coan, who has started the first six games of the season for the 13th-ranked Irish (5-1), was benched in the second quarter of Notre Dame's 32-29 win over Virginia Tech. The Irish trailed 10-0 when Coan exited the game.
Buchner relieved Coan and led three touchdown drives. Buchner also threw two costly interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown in the third quarter. The freshman suffered what appeared to be a leg injury in the fourth quarter, and Coan returned to lead the tying and winning scoring drives.
Buchner was less than 100% last week during the bye because of the leg injury, but he got significant reps in practice and he should be full strength this week, Kelly said.
After the Virginia Tech game, Kelly was unsure what the quarterback situation would look like going forward.
“I can't in good conscience say, 'He's the starter or he's the starter,'” Kelly said then. “We're stringing this together the best we can.”
Coan has been benched twice this season – he also sat for the second half of Notre Dame's loss to Cincinnati while Pyne led a pair of touchdown drives – but has returned to be the starter for the next game on both occasions. Kelly said after the win over the Hokies that Coan shows the coaching staff plenty in practice to earn his spot with the first-string offense.
“I didn't name (Coan) the starting quarterback because he came up on the Ouija board,” Kelly said, laughing.
After Coan re-entered the Virginia Tech game, with the Irish trailing 29-21 and 3:55 to play, he went 7 for 9 for 97 yards and a touchdown.
“Jack is a stone-cold killer,” Irish linebacker Drew White said after Coan led the Irish to the win. “We have a lot of confidence in him. He's got that look and there's some guys that just don't have it.”
Kelly said Coan's success in the final minutes was the result of the quarterback throwing the ball more quickly because of the urgency of the moment. He noted that Buchner's running ability likely tired the Hokies' defensive line, as well.
Coan worked extensively during the bye on getting the ball out more quickly and being more efficient, Kelly said.
Notes: Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer, who sat out the Virginia Tech game with an abductor strain, should be 100% against USC. ... Running back Chris Tyree, who missed much of the game against the Hokies with turf toe, has been cleared to play. ... Redshirt sophomore Andrew Kristofic will replace Zeke Correll as Notre Dame's starting left guard. ... True freshman tight end Cane Berrong is out for the season with a torn MCL.
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend
Records: No. 13 Notre Dame (5-1), USC (3-3)
TV: NBC Radio: 1380 AM, 100.9 FM