Blue and Gold Illustrated

June-July 2019

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 18 of 55 JUNE/JULY 2019 19 incumbent senior Ian Book. Whereas Book asserted himself as the clear starter during the Blue-Gold Game April 13 by directing four touch- down drives in seven possessions against the top defense — two of his other marches ended with a lost fum- ble by running back Jafar Armstrong in the defense's territory and a missed fourth-down attempt after traveling 67 yards — Jurkovec was conspicu- ously off his game. He passed for only 135 yards on 26 attempts, was "touch sacked" 12 times — sometimes when he was not allowed to improvise, but often because he held on to the ball too long — and aesthetically did not throw the kind of pass that would be deemed prototype at this level. "Very frustrating," he summarized to the media after the game. "I'm just not where I need to be. … I have a long way to go with everything — physi- cally and mentally." During a brilliant high school ca- reer at Pine-Richland in the Pittsburgh area that saw him pass for 8,202 yards at a 68.4 percent completion rate and rush for 2,942 additional yards to make him one of the nation's top 100 pros- pects, the 6-4½, 225-pound Jurkovec was classified as a premier talent at his position. Perhaps not at the level of a Trevor Lawrence (Clemson), Justin Fields (Georgia, and now Ohio State) or even J.T. Daniels (USC), but someone a top-echelon college program can build around for the long term. It also should be noted that whereas Lawrence, Fields and Daniels all en- rolled early in January 2018 at their re- spective schools, Jurkovec also earned all-state honors in basketball at Pine- Richland. Then upon Jurkovec's arrival at Notre Dame in the summer of 2018, a sidearm motion in his technique was eventually addressed by the staff. "It's been tweaked a lot, so I'm just going to have to keep working on that," Jurkovec said of his mechanics. "In high school my form changed multiple times. I have a lot to work on, physi- cally and mentally. … I'm always going to have to work on my mechanics." Similar to 2015-18 Notre Dame quar- terback Brandon Wimbush, who will use his fifth year of eligibility this sea- son as a graduate transfer at Central Florida, Jurkovec has displayed a pro- clivity to throw the deep ball well and with accuracy, but has struggled with the shorter elements of the pass. Like Wimbush, Jurkovec also be- lieves he can be more effective when he does not wear a red jersey that makes him off limits to contact in scrimmages, be they in practices or an event like the Blue-Gold Game. "A major portion of my game is be- ing able to make things happen when- ever I'm 'live,' being able to scramble, run a little bit and make things happen with my feet," Jurkovec said. "Taking that away was a little weird for me … I understood that being the two [quar- terback] they didn't want to [tackle me]. I would like to do it, but it's just the circumstances." Another fine line for Jurkovec to walk is not forgetting the mistakes made but also not dwelling on them to the point where they become counter- productive and clog his mind. "There's a lot that I can learn from it, but at the same time it was not real football, just the way that it's set up," he said of the Blue-Gold Game. "I'm not going to put too much emphasis on it, but I'm definitely going to use it to learn from." Clearly agitated with his perfor- mance and progress, forbearance will be imperative for Jurkovec, but a te- nacity to want more immediate grati- fication has engulfed him. "Yeah, it is a process, but I've been here a good amount of time now so I really need to ramp it up," he said. For head coach Brian Kelly and quarterbacks coach Tommy Rees, who started 31 games for the Fighting Irish from 2010-13 and can appreciate the ups and downs of the position as much as anyone, working on the mental as- pect with Jurkovec will be as essential, if not mandatory, as the mechanics. "Quarterback is a position where ev- erybody wants to see them ascend to this position immediately," Kelly said. "He's like that as well. He wants to see it happen, but it's gotta take some time for him and he's got to understand that, too. He's pushing himself a little too hard, he's a little too hard on him- self. … He's got too much going on right now. "He's just got to get the ball out of his hand and make it simpler. The game's a little too hard for him right now and you can see it. He never played like that in high school. He made it simple, and he's making this game way too hard. It will come. He'll wake up one day and it will be a lot simpler for him. Right now it's hard. We'll get him to the point where it's simple." The checklist for the next several months is clear for Jurkovec. "Physically my footwork and get- ting stronger, tightening my motion, getting my motion to where it was," he said. "Mentally, I need to just watch a ton of film with Coach Rees. … Mainly it's on me and what I have to do. I know what I have to do. Working on my mechanics, there are a lot of drills I can do. "Coach Rees is always there for me, and he's always going to help me out." ✦

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