Blue and Gold Illustrated

March 2021

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

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 81 of 83

82 MARCH 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED W ithout having played a down yet at Notre Dame, or even taken a snap at Wisconsin last year, graduate transfer quarter- back Jack Coan was installed by as 13th among quarterbacks in the 2021 Heisman odds. It reinforces two popular opinions — one that is rela- tively accurate and another that has become, for the most part, a myth the past 50 years. The former is that the Heis- man Trophy is mainly about stat accumulation by the top quarterbacks on mostly play- off-caliber teams. Since 2000, 17 of the 21 Heisman win- ners have been signal-callers. W h e n a q u a r t e r b a c k doesn't win the Heisman, it's usually another mega- star on offense from an Ala- bama national title unit such as running backs Mark Ingram Jr. (2009) and Derrick Henry (2015), or this past season with wide receiver DeVonta Smith, who actually began the year as the second-best wideout on his own team. The second thought is that Coan's name even being on the board is more evidence that no matter what, the Fighting Irish quarterback is an automatic Heisman candidate based merely on the school's history. That may be true in theory, but it has become more of an myth the past 50 years with the results. This past season with his No. 9 finish in the Heisman balloting, Ian Book became only the fourth different Notre Dame quarterback since 1971 to even make the top 10, never mind the top five. He joined national champi- onship signal-callers Tom Clements (No. 4 in 1974) and Tony Rice (No. 4 in 1989), along with Brady Quinn in 2005 (No. 4) and 2006 (No. 3). With dual-threats Clements and Rice, it was neither about stats nor whether they were highly esteemed NFL prospects. Clements averaged only 114.2 yards passing per game in 34 starts, while Rice was at 93.5 yards in his 35 game appearances. Neither was even drafted by the NFL. Book might have a better chance to be, but it's no sure thing. Regardless, the supreme leader- ship provided by Clements and Rice as juniors helped guide Notre Dame to national titles in 1973 and 1988, respectively, so in their senior years they were automatic candidates on teams that were in the hunt for a re- peat before the team lost its final reg- ular-season games in 1974 and 1989. They then both ended their careers with wins over 11-0 and No. 1-ranked opponents in the Orange Bowl — yet another example of amazing coinci- dences through the years. The starting quarterback at Notre Dame often is referred to as the most glamorous and publicity-laden posi- tion in college football. Yet those who didn't even place among the top 10 in the past 50 years include: • Joe Montana, the preseason fa- vorite in 1978 after leading the march to the 1977 national title. An 0-2 start prevented him from finishing even in the top 10. • Four-year starters Steve Beuer- lein (1983-86) and Ron Powlus (1994-97). Beuerlein would play 15 years in the NFL, where he would have 147 starts and make a Pro Bowl. After just one college game, Powlus was infamously projected to win not one but two Heis- mans by ESPN's Pope of Col- lege Football, Beano Cook. • Rick Mirer, the No. 2 pick in the 1993 NFL Draft who helped lead a 10-1-1 season as a senior — although Irish running back Reggie Brooks did finish No. 5 that year. • Kevin McDougal, the all- time pass-efficiency leader at Notre Dame, who in 1993 steered a No. 2 finish that in- cluded a victory over No. 1 Florida State. • Jimmy Clausen, adver- tised as "the LeBron James of high school football," who turned pro after his junior season and was a second- round pick. • Fifty years ago, it would have been unfathomable for a Notre Dame team to finish the regular season unbeaten as it did in 2012 and 2018, yet the starting quarterbacks, Everett Golson and Book, were not even in the top 10 of the balloting. In the 22-year period from 1943-64, the Irish had four Heisman Trophy winners at the position: Angelo Bertelli (1943), John Lujack (1947), Paul Hor- nung (1956) and John Huarte (1964). Four others from 1949-70 finished in the top five: Bob Williams, Ralph Guglielmi, Terry Hanratty and Joe Theismann (No. 2 in 1970), whose last name famously was changed in pro- nunciation to rhyme with Heisman. Meanwhile, the lone position in the NFL on offense or defense this year that did not have Notre Dame repre- sentation was quarterback (DeShone Kizer was signed to the Tennessee Ti- tans' practice squad on Nov. 24, but he has not been in a game since 2018). Here's to the 2020s beginning a new trend of Irish quarterbacks in the top five to top 10 of the Heisman balloting — which would surely mean continued national title con- tention again. ✦ Notre Dame Quarterbacks And The Heisman Myth THE FIFTH QUARTER LOU SOMOGYI Senior Editor Lou Somogyi has been at Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 1985. He can be reached at listed Jack Coan, who transferred from Wisconsin to Notre Dame in January, 13th among quarterbacks in its 2021 Heisman odds. PHOTO BY DAVID STLUKA/COURTESY WISCONSIN ATHLETICS

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - March 2021