A newly minted Fighting Irish player stood tall over the QB huddle during ND’s first practice Saturday. Height is one attribute the new guy brings to the team. There are a few others.
For the first time in 34 games spanning most of 3 seasons, Notre Dame will have a new QB, and the likelihood is that that guy will be University of Wisconsin transfer, Jack Coan.
Coan is in competition with Sophomore Drew Pyne and Freshman Tyler Buchner. That competition may be a short one however. Saturday after practice , head coach Brian Kelly seemed to signal that Coan is the leader in a competition that will be over quickly, “We feel like we’ve got a pretty good sense of where this is going to go.”
Kelly went on to say that the final QB decision will be made after Notre Dame’s first scrimmage this Thursday, August 12. By setting a tight schedule, It would seem that the head coach may have learned from the 2016 competition he staged between Deshone Kizer and Malik Zaire. Kizer eventually won that job but not until both played early in the season as the ND season unraveled to a 4-8 finish.
Coan indeed will be an upgrade in the area of stature. At 6-3¼ he is, give or take 4 inches taller than Ian Book, and Pyne, and a couple inches taller than Buchner. When your offensive line averages in the neighborhood of 6-6, height matters.
At Wisconsin Coan played in 25 games with 18 starts. He threw for 3,278 yards and 23 touchdowns. He tossed just 8 interceptions and his 68% passing percentage ranks third in Wisconsin history. Those numbers signal upgrade in the passing game.
Saturday Kelly indicated he likes Coan’s body of work, “We took him because he had battle tested experience in the Big Ten in a very good program.”
Coan entered the transfer portal last January after foot surgery had sidelined him most of last season. While injured Freshman Graham Mertz emerged for the Badgers.
In the 2019 season, Coan started every game and led the Badgers to a 10-4 record and a trip to the Rose Bowl. Including a few games in 2018, Coan is 12-6 as a starter.
Comparisons to Ian Book are inevitable and height is not the only difference. Coan is not the runner the Irish have had the last three seasons. Book was Notre Dame’s 3rd leading rusher in 2020 with 485 yards on 116 carries and 9 Touchdowns. At Wisconsin in 2019 Coan rushed for just 22 yards on 56 attempts and 4 touchdowns. Coan however, is much more likely to stick in the pocket a split second longer than Book in search of a receiver. As a result, while he does not run nearly as well, he should have success finding downfield opportunities.
A lot is expected of Coan as he has been thrust into the likely starter role at a program that is 43-8 and has been to the CFP twice in the last four years.
The position of quarterback of course, is all about leadership, and despite his experience at Wisconsin he is a new guy in the QB room and on the practice field in South Bend.
Making a strong early impression on his new teammates and coaches is critical. That apparently has not been a problem for Coan.
According to Kelly on Saturday, Coan received a coveted “Ultimate Warrior” award from strength and conditioning coach Matt Balis at the end of summer workouts. Evidence that Kelly believes that Coan already is, “seen by his peers as a warrior…he’s a guy you want lined up next to you in a foxhole”.
Jack Coan’s stat-line at Notre Dame right now is a big zero. But extensive Power 5 success combined with physical tools and a strong early impression on his Coach and teammates may signal good things ahead.