Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 14, 2020

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

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54 NOV. 14, 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED I n college football today, if you are the No. 3 quar- terback (or even No. 2 in many cases) in your second year, especially at a Power Five school, a transfer is virtu- ally imminent. Count on this becoming an issue again in 2021 when Brendon Clark, Drew Pyne and Tyler Buchner vie to suc- ceed Ian Book — if he opts not to return. The No. 3 quarterback today must usually either be a pre- ferred walk-on who could play at a number of Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools but wants to be at Notre Dame for reasons beyond football, or someone who excelled there in high school but is now useful at another position. Nolan Henry (2015-19) is an exam- ple of the former, while senior Avery Davis (see pages 18-19) or sophomore punter Jay Bramblett are the latter. It's doubtful we see the likes of a senior such as Joe Montana as the No. 3 option like we did in 1977, before becoming the starter by the fourth game of a national title run. Yet in nearly 50 years of following the Notre Dame football program, it seemed to me that Phil Jurkovec's transfer among more than two dozen (pages 52-53) seemed to hit home a little more among Fighting Irish faithful beyond the typical. • The former top-100 prospect was the first verbal in the 2018 class be- fore he began his junior year, and became an ardent recruiter for the school even after the 4-8 meltdown in 2016. His passion for Notre Dame was conspicuous. • He is a true dual-threat signal- caller, passing for 3,969 yards and running for 1,211 during an unbeaten senior season while winning a state title. • He is a Western Pennsylvania native — which also produced Irish national title quarterbacks Montana, Tom Clements, Terry Hanratty and John Lujack, plus the likes of Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath, Dan Marino and Jim Kelly. • He was also an all-state basket- ball player, just like Clements, Mon- tana, Tony Rice, Kevin McDougal and Everett Golson were before lead- ing the Fighting Irish to prominence as a quarterback. And, of course, even though Jurk- ovec was in the same recruiting class as Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields and JT Daniels, head coach Brian Kelly boldly stated, "He's somebody I could put up against any quarterback that I've ever seen." Added quarterbacks coach Tommy Rees: "As impressive of an athlete as you will find across the country from a height, weight standpoint, ability to make plays with his legs, ability to make all the throws on the field. You don't see that very often." That is natural recruiting hype — but one that always makes me cringe because it becomes pretty much no- win, especially for Notre Dame quar- terbacks, from Ron Powlus, who had two Heismans projected for him na- tionally after one contest, to Jimmy Clausen, described as "the LeBron James of football." Rancor inevitably ensues when one is built up so much, yet is a non- factor in competition for the first two years. You can't have it both ways. You can't promote the guy as the best in his class, and then not take some accountability for why he isn't. Jurkovec also seemed to have it all in high school, but then … Suddenly, the throwing technique once he arrives looks unorthodox and clunky, playing time is minimal, and his 2019 spring game left Jurkovec immensely frus- trated and shaken, both with an inability to utilize his scrambling skills while get- ting touch-sacked 12 times, plus an inordinate amount of wounded ducks from his release. "A pretty terrible day on my part," a downcast Jurk- ovec said after the exhibition scrimmage. "One's on advanced calcu- lus, the other one is still get- ting past algebra right now," summarized 2017-19 Fight- ing Irish offensive coordina- tor Chip Long before that contest on the difference between the more seasoned Book (who arrived much- less hyped as a three-star recruit) and the fledgling Jurkovec. When Book struggled and osten- sibly regressed during a 5-2 start in 2019, the groundswell to give Jurk- ovec a chance expanded. "If I felt like playing Phil for five plays, four plays would make us a better football team, I would do it in a second," Kelly responded. "I'm only interested in how I can help our football team win. This is not about an ego. "If I thought for a second that Phil Jurkovec would be on the field to help us winning in some fashion, he would be on the field. This is as hon- est as I can be with you." Long and the Irish staff divorced in December, and then Jurkovec left the house in January to star at Boston College. Sides are taken on who to blame in such fractures, but reality is likely somewhere in the middle, with both having their own version of events. Chances are, it is often the best for both parties to part when such un- happiness festers. ✦ Quarterback Departures Are Often For The Best THE FIFTH QUARTER LOU SOMOGYI Senior Editor Lou Somogyi has been at Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 1985. He can be reached at After two seasons behind Ian Book, Phil Jurkovec (above) transferred to Boston College. In two seasons with the Irish, Jurkovec appeared in nine games, passed for 222 yards and two scores, and rushed for 139 yards. PHOTO BY ANDRIS VISOCKIS

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