Phil Jurkovec’s Notre Dame career began with Irish head coach Brian Kelly describing him as “the best quarterback in the country” in the recruiting class of 2018 on National Signing Day, and that may have been the highlight of his last two years. Jurkovec has entered the transfer portal, first reported by Matt Zenitz of AL.com.
Jurkovec’s career at Notre Dame valleyed with his Blue-Gold Game showing in April, a disaster of memorable proportions, when he struggled to complete just about any throw, both his spiral and his muscle memory abandoning him at the conclusion of spring practices.
“The standard that I have for myself is I’ll do better because a lot of those routes and plays out there that we were doing, I’ve done,” Jurkovec said then in an interview session filled with self-flagellation. “I’ve hit before. I just expected more.”
Though he appeared in only six games this season, those concerns seemed to be largely behind Jurkovec. He completed 12 of 16 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns, running for another 130 yards on 22 carries. This may not have been the expected career trajectory of a highly-touted four-star quarterback of Pennsylvania, but at least that trajectory had turned toward the positive, the promising, the potential.
“He showed some real signs that you don’t normally get those opportunities on the backup quarterback and execute them correctly,” Kelly said in mid-November. “It’s hard being the backup quarterback and stay locked in all the time. So there are a couple things where you scratch your head, but I just think it’s just a matter of time. Once he gets in there and gets a lot of work, we feel really confident that he’ll be successful.”
That “lot of work,” though, was not going to come in 2020, barring injury, thanks to Ian Book deciding to return for a fifth year and third season starting. Book’s success has arguably been the greatest detriment to Jurkovec’s presumed plans.
When Jurkovec committed to and signed with Notre Dame, the expectation was Brandon Wimbush would start in 2018, maybe in 2019, and then the preps star from the proverbial quarterback valley would take over. Book was largely an afterthought, particularly due to his low recruiting profile. A strong 2018 spring from Book and even more impressive 2018 preseason, along with Wimbush’s early 2018 struggles, led to Book taking over the starting gig and excelling.
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There has not been an opening for Jurkovec to get on the field since. When Book announced his 2020 return, he put himself in position to become the all-time winningest starting quarterback in Notre Dame history, and Jurkovec in position to enter the 2021 season in a quarterback competition with current freshman Brendon Clark, incoming freshman Drew Pyne and 2021 commit Tyler Buchner, the next star recruit to sign with the Irish at the position since Jurkovec.
In that scenario, it is conceivable Jurkovec would have little playing time advantage on the other three, though three years of practice would give him something of a leg up.
With this expected transfer — a player can return from the transfer portal, but it is unlikely — Jurkovec will spend a year on the sidelines before having two seasons of eligibility remaining.
Notre Dame’s expected scholarship count is now down to 87.