“One down, hopefully 14 more to go.”
Things would have to take a sudden and drastic turn for Notre Dame not to exceed last year’s total of a spring practice — yes, that is singular — come Tuesday, yet Irish head coach Brian Kelly could not help but acknowledge how truncated the 2020 spring session was as he spoke after Notre Dame’s spring debut on Saturday.
Hopefully, that is the first of many instances in which the Irish and all of us alike note things moving forward more smoothly after the last 13 months.
Aside from that ever-present reality, the biggest difference for Notre Dame between 2020 and 2021 will be behind center. With three-year starter and all-time winningest Irish quarterback Ian Book now readying for the NFL, Notre Dame turns to Wisconsin graduate transfer Jack Coan, not that Kelly would commit to that.
“We’re not handing this job to Jack Coan,” Kelly said. “[Sophomore Drew Pyne] has been in the program, so we want him in the spring to be competing for the starting position, and he’ll have an opportunity to do that where they get first-team reps.”
Offsetting Pyne’s year under Irish offensive coordinator Tommy Rees and appearances in four games, including the Rose Bowl, are Coan’s 18 starts in his Badgers career, completing 69.6 percent of his passes with 18 touchdowns and only five interceptions, including a start in the 2019 Rose Bowl.
Kelly does not expect the spring quarterback competition to exceed that pair. Junior Brendon Clark had knee surgery in December, on the same knee in which he tore the ACL in high school, and Kelly said, “It’s going to be difficult for him to [get in the mix] relative to the timetable.” Early-enrolled freshman Tyler Buchner missed his senior season due to the coronavirus pandemic and thus has “some development that has to take place there.