Blue and Gold Illustrated

May 2021 Issue

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

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Page 19 of 47

20 MAY 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY PATRICK ENGEL B rian Kelly isn't going to serve Notre Dame's starting quar- terback job to Jack Coan on a platter. Neither, apparently, is Drew Pyne. Because Pyne, per his teammates and Kelly, isn't the also-ran in Notre Dame's overall quarterback picture he's sometimes cast as. Kelly made clear in his first press availability of the spring Pyne is the main competition right now for Coan, a graduate transfer from Wis- consin with 18 career starts. And it's not because Kelly wants to hold a competition just to say he did and needs a token second participant. "We want Drew to be the starter," Kelly said. "Drew has been in the program and we want him in the spring to be competing for the start- ing position. "He will have an opportunity to do that and get first-team reps." The rising sophomore has split first-team snaps with Coan in spring practices, which conclude with the Blue-Gold Game May 1. That scrim- mage is, as of now, the only chance for the public to assess the battle. With rising junior Brendon Clark sidelined as he recovers from Decem- ber knee surgery and Kelly's decla- ration there is "some development that has to take place" with early en- rollee freshman Tyler Buchner, the competition during spring feels like a two-man race between a starter of a 10-4 Big Ten West division champion team in 2019 and a 5-11½, 194-pound quarterback with three career pass attempts. To view it that way, though, is to miscast it as a lopsided affair. "Drew is built for this," Kelly said. "He has always been told he's not good enough, can't be the starter, can't win. He relishes these opportu- nities. He has always succeeded. "This doesn't affect Drew at all. It just motivates him even more." A surface glance offers enough rea- son to be intrigued by Pyne. He was Ian Book's backup by the end of 2020 after Clark's injury. His final landing spot in the 2020 Rivals250 (No. 118) is only four spots lower than Buchner's place in the last 2021 rankings. He arrived in January 2020 and earned a reputation as a quick study for his ability to soak up and retain the playbook. "He learned everything," Book told Blue & Gold Illustrated. "He was up there every night, late at night, studying with me and Coach [Tommy] Rees because he wanted to get that next step. "Drew's really good technically, has really good footwork. He spins the ball. He has a really pure mo- tion." "He's the ultimate competitor," fifth-year senior slot receiver Avery Davis added. "He takes on any chal- lenge. He's truly going to step up to the plate when his name is called." Yet even as Pyne impressed last offseason, rose up the depth chart and drew praise from those around the program for his leadership skills this winter, the sentiment in fan cir- cles is often one of disinterest. Because of the height. Because of the fascination around Buchner, a high-level athlete and a top-100 re- cruit when he committed in March 2019. Because of Coan's arrival. Be- cause Pyne's four-game freshman sample size didn't afford many chances to leave a meaningful public impression that could change prior schools of thought. One practice also didn't change that Coan remains the early favorite to start at this point because of his experience and 2019 performance at COMING ON STRONG Sophomore Drew Pyne has impressed and earned a real chance at winning the starting quarterback job this spring Pyne split first-team reps at quarterback with graduate transfer Jack Coan during the start of Notre Dame's spring practice in late March. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

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