Notre Dame adds ‘best QB in the country’ for 2018

Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly walks on the field before a game last month at Miami (Fla.). (By The Associated Press)
Phil Jurkovec
Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush (7) talks with Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly at the end of the first half against Stanford last month in Stanford, Calif. (By The Associated Press)

If you are an “old school” sports fan that cringes at the notion of specialization within athletics, then the key figure in Notre Dame’s 2018 football recruiting class will appeal to you.

The Fighting Irish announced the signing of 20 student-athletes on Wednesday and being a versatile athlete wasn’t viewed as a negative by the Notre Dame coaches, it was a very positive thing.

In the case of quarterback signee Phil Jurkovec, the fact that he has also played a ton of basketball for Pine-Richland High School in western Pennsylvania only made Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly like him more and more.

“I’m of the opposite spectrum in that, I love guys playing another sport,” Kelly said. “There is nothing that can replace the ability to lead and the ability to compete that another sport gives you.”

Jurkovec certainly brought a lot of assets to the football field; after all, Kelly said Wednesday that “he’s the best quarterback in the country.” However, the 6-foot-5 athlete has also been a starter on the basketball team since his freshman season and scored over 1,200 points in his career.

“When I got a chance to watch him play basketball,” Kelly said, “just his drive, his competitiveness, his interaction with teammates, those things you can’t get in the gym.”

Notre Dame fans will surely have an appreciation for Jurkovec’s athletic versatility, but what the Irish Nation really wants to see is his football talent. And Jurkovec has plenty of that, as well.

He led Pine-Richland to the PIAA 6A state championship with a perfect 16-0 record and threw for almost 4,000 yards this season alone.

From an accuracy standpoint, Jurkovec completed almost 70 percent of his throws, 39 of which went for scores this season. He only threw six interceptions as a senior and also ran for over 1,200 yards.

He can hurt a defense in a myriad of manners.

“You can get a little stronger,” Kelly said of focusing just on football, “certainly you can continue to throw and build relationships in one-on-one, but you can’t get those traits that separate the good from the great.”

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Notre Dame already has scholarship quarterbacks Brandon Wimbush, Ian Book, and Avery Davis on its roster, so bringing in Jurkovec may not have any type of impact in 2018. Or maybe it will, according to Kelly.

“I want him to challenge (for the starting job),” 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 doesn’t, but let’s bring in another really good quarterback, a great quarterback.”

“That’s our job here at Notre Dame.”

Kelly and his staff began to recruit Jurkovec as a sophomore, and Kelly was quick to note that he was a true sophomore, not some prodigy that had been redshirted for athletic purposes.

“He wasn’t a sophomore that was held back,” Kelly said. “He was a young sophomore that was out there leading his football team against really good competition.”

“That was something that we needed to go see, his presence, leadership ability, you have to go see that in person.”

Jurkovec missed half of his junior season with a thumb injury, but bounced back in championship form this fall.

Jurkovec isn’t the nation’s highest rated quarterback, though he is a consensus top 10 selection nationally by the evaluation services, however, Kelly said he couldn’t be happier with who he just signed to possibly lead his offense into the future.

“I think he’s the best quarterback in the country,” Kelly said. “He’s somebody that I could put up against any quarterback that I’ve ever seen.”

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