2018 Notre Dame Football Position and Prospect Analysis: Quarterback
SOUTH BEND – The focus on this spring’s football practices at Notre Dame will center on the quarterback position and with good reason. For the eighth time in Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly’s nine-year tenure in South Bend, the opening day starter at the most critical position is less than certain at this juncture.
That level of intrigue will get ratcheted up significantly come August when the training camp practices – and the participation of incoming prospect Phil Jurkovec – get under way and time for developing an offensive leader becomes of the essence.
“I think he’s the best quarterback in the country,” Kelly said of Jurkovec on the first National Signing Day in December. “He’s somebody that, you know, I could put up against any quarterback that I’ve ever seen.”
Despite that amount of adulation, Jurkovec may not end up being the most impactful 2018 recruit for the Irish next fall, but obviously, Kelly will give the fourth-ranked quarterback (Rivals.com) in the nation serious consideration.
News-Sentinel.com sports reporter Tom Davis has been writing on Notre Dame football for nearly two decades and will take a daily look at the various position groups for next season and how the incoming class of prospects could impact the success of the Fighting Irish.
Today’s position: Quarterback
Coming Thursday: Running back
When it comes to Kelly, nothing would be surprising in terms of how he will handle the quarterback situation.
The veteran coach could go with 2017 starter Brandon Wimbush or surprisingly effective reserve Ian Book.
Second-year player Avery Davis (5-foot-11) is another dual-threat quarterback, more similar to the 6-foot Book than Wimbush (6-foot-2) in terms of size, and Davis had a solid year on the scout team and really showed potential in the practice sessions leading up to the Citrus Bowl game in December.
“Avery has done a really nice job,” Kelly said in December. “He is efficient with the football and is a very strong runner. He is an athlete.
“Each and every time that (Davis) has the football in his hands, he is difficult to defend.”
Kelly said in December that he wants Jurkovec (6-foot-5, 204 pounds) to come in and “challenge” the veterans for immediate playing time, but that can be a difficult – though not impossible – task for a true freshman at the Power 5 level of college football.
“I want (Jurkovec) to challenge,” Kelly said. “I want Brandon to feel competition, and I’m sure Brandon wants to be challenged. Any great competitor wants that feeling that somebody is pushing him every day, and not that Ian Book doesn’t, but let’s bring in another really good quarterback, a great quarterback.
“That’s our job here at Notre Dame.”
Wimbush was very good at times last fall, as he accounted for 30 touchdowns (running and passing), but he completed less than 50 percent of his passes and was replaced halfway through the Citrus Bowl win over LSU by Book, who played well in that game.
Each of the Irish quarterbacks have similar skill sets in that they can extend plays with their agility and have strong enough arms in which to make all of the necessary throws.
For Book, his decision making (he threw for four interceptions in just 75 attempts) needs to improve, but in his defense, he had very limited game experience in which to develop.
It remains to be seen whether or not Jurkovec can get on the field next fall, but it isn’t questioned whether or not Kelly will give the talented newcomer an opportunity in training camp.
Kelly will give Jurkovec a look in August, that much isn’t even debatable.
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