Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 17 Jack Coan, graduate quarterback, Wisconsin transfer

Jack Coan 2021
Notre Dame Athletics
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Listed measurements: 6-foot-3 ¼, 220 pounds.
2021-22 year, eligibility: Some may argue Coan has two seasons of eligibility left, but looking at his career, he should have only one year remaining unless the NCAA grants a waiver. Coan played in only three games as a freshman at Wisconsin in 2017, but the four-game eligibility threshold did not take effect until 2018, and since two of those three games occurred in November, that cost Coan a season of eligibility under the former rules. Then the 2020 universal pandemic waiver did not do him much good, since a foot injury cost him the season, so that cushion of a year was essentially spent, anyway. Thus, Coan played in 2017, 2018 and 2019, all counting against his eligibility, leaving him with one more go-round.
Depth Chart: Though Brian Kelly would not name Notre Dame’s starting quarterback in the spring, Coan has all-but beaten out sophomore Drew Pyne for the gig.
Recruiting: Originally pursued by the Irish when he was a high school sophomore lacrosse star, Coan eventually chose the Badgers over Nebraska and Maryland while holding offers from Michigan, Miami and Boston College.

When it came to his transfer, Coan joining Notre Dame always made too much sense for him to look into too many other schools. He announced that decision only days after the Irish lost in the College Football Playoff, a decision delayed by offensive coordinator Tommy Rees focusing on preparing for the Rose Bowl and thus putting off a few conversations with Coan, understandably so.

“I was definitely talking to a few other schools for a little while,” Coan said in early April. “Coach Rees, basically, didn’t want to reach out to me until after the season was over. He told me he was trying to focus on beating Alabama in the Playoff. After he reached out to me, I kind of took a day or two with my family to discuss it. But previously, we were thinking that Notre Dame might come in, so we were doing our research before that as well. So, pretty soon thereafter, I knew I wanted to come here.”

NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS
Coan is notoriously averse to social media or nearly anything that will bring attention to himself off the field. The Badgers offensive line once broke out “Jacky Heisman” shirts specifically to poke fun at their low-key quarterback. It was not that he was a viable Heisman candidate, it was that they knew the mere suggestion of a Coan-centric campaign would get under his skin.

So it drew some notice when Coan joined Instagram this month. Surely it was a pure coincidence he did so only two days after athletes were granted the rights to profit off their names, images and likenesses. Even if he keeps his social media presence to a minimum, the account creates an avenue for companies to contact Coan about possibilities.

CAREER TO DATE
Those three costly games in 2017 had little impact, as Coan began 2018 as a backup still, but by the end of that October, he had taken over as Wisconsin’s starter.

His five-game sophomore cameo inspired some hype heading into 2019, which Coan largely met, leading the Badgers to a Big Ten West division championship and the Rose Bowl.

2017: 3 games; 4-of-5 passing for 36 yards.
2018: 5 games; 56-of-93 passing, 60.2 percent completion rate, for 515 yards and five touchdowns with three interceptions.
2019: 14 games; 236-of-339 passing, 69.6 percent completion rate, for 2,727 yards and 18 touchdowns with five interceptions. Averaged 8.04 yards per attempt.

A preseason foot injury to Coan during the pandemic gave sophomore Graham Mertz a chance at starting that he took firm hold of. In theory, Coan could have tried to unseat Mertz this summer, but the odds are the Badgers would have continued on their path forward, while Notre Dame clearly had a quarterback need for the 2021 season.

QUOTES
Notre Dame has not started a transfer quarterback since … possibly ever. Pardon the inexact nature of that realization, but looking back through the year-by-year Irish passing leaders, even the less notable quarterbacks of the 1960s and 1970s (Rusty Lisch, Rick Slager, Cliff Brown, Bill Zloch, Frank Budgka, George Haffner) all began their careers with Notre Dame.

It is an inexact phenomenon anywhere outside of Oklahoma, a passer coming in and taking control of the offense and the locker room, and one that was going to be difficult for both Coan and the roster as a whole to navigate. Even veteran receiver Avery Davis was hesitant of the newcomer to start the semester.

“Initially I was, I wouldn’t say skeptical, I was uneasy about it,” Davis said in late March. “Usually the guys they recruit, we go through the process together, a couple years together.”

Instead, Coan was simply arriving and immediately walking into a competition to be the Irish starting quarterback, perhaps even a competition in appearance only. But Kelly insisted plenty of his new teammates already recognized what Coan had done in Madison.

“You’ve got a lot of recognition for the things that you’ve accomplished in the Big 10 at Wisconsin, so the guys know who you are,” Kelly said. “Be who you are, be authentic, and when you’re authentic, guys trust you.

“When you’re a starting quarterback, you already have great traits and his work ethic is outstanding, so we knew a lot of that about him already and so he came in here and has fit in extremely well because he’s been authentic, he’s been who he is and hasn’t tried to pretend. Naturally, leadership will follow that position and that’s kind of what’s happened.”

RELATED READING: Former Wisconsin QB Jack Coan brings starting experience to ND
Coan’s transfer an example of college football’s growth, to his and Notre Dame’s benefit

2021 OUTLOOK
Ignore Kelly’s posturing that Coan is not Notre Dame’s starter. He would not have transferred to South Bend without some expectation and understanding of his likelihood of starting, and Kelly would not have made the transfer a SWAT captain (off-season units within the team) this winter if he was not trying to position him for a leadership role from the outset.

Projecting Coan’s stats is difficult, not knowing how he will adjust to a more balanced offense, not knowing how the Irish receivers will or will not develop, not knowing how much Rees will lean on Notre Dame’s run game (and thus make the offense look a bit more like the Badgers’). But his completion percentage rate should be looked at as a barometer.

Coan’s completion rate and yards per attempt will be the two best indicators of his success at Notre Dame. He may not represent the running threat that Ian Book did — not that Coan will be completely ineffective in that department, just not an active and constant defensive concern — but Coan’s time as a starter featured better rates than Book’s. Book completed 64.0 percent of his passes, gaining 7.97 yards per attempt.

Coan’s 69.6 percent and 8.04 yards per attempt in 2019 may seem like small steps up, but they would be significant in terms of propelling the Irish offense forward.

Coan raises the Irish floor in 2021, in part because he can be trusted to make most of the right decisions and will not be quickly rattled. He has shown the first trait in his career already and as a veteran with a Rose Bowl to his name, the latter trait should be presumed. Facing Wisconsin should not faze him, nor should October’s back-to-back primetime dates with two of the best quarterbacks in the country.

DOWN THE ROAD
Coan would need to very much dazzle in 2021 in order to create notable draft prospects. If he does, a mid-round grade could be conceivable, if for no other reason than the NFL’s infatuation with quarterbacks.

A total of 34 quarterbacks have been selected in the last three drafts. Coan may be able to work his way into the top-10 or -11 passers in the draft, at which point, a decent signing bonus will be his monetary reward for this season at Notre Dame, at the absolute least.

NOTRE DAME 99-TO-0
Let’s try this again
No. 99 Rylie Mills, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 98 Alexander Ehrensberger, sophomore defensive end
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, early-enrolled freshman defensive tackle the size of a Volkswagen
No. 95 Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, fifth-year defensive tackle-turned-end
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, early-enrolled freshman tight end, a former high school quarterback
No. 87 Michael Mayer, star sophomore tight end and lead offensive weapon
No. 85 George Takacs, senior tight end, ‘152 years old’
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, sophomore tight end
No. 82 Xavier Watts, sophomore receiver
No. 81 Jay Brunelle, speedy sophomore receiver
No. 80 Cane Berrong, early-enrolled freshman tight end
No. 79 Tosh Baker, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 78 Pat Coogan, incoming freshman center
No. 77 Quinn Carroll, junior offensive lineman
No. 76 Joe Alt, incoming and towering freshman offensive lineman
No. 75 Josh Lugg, fifth-year right tackle, finally a starter
No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, junior offensive tackle, possible backup center
No. 72 Caleb Johnson, early-enrolled offensive tackle, former Auburn commit
No. 70 Hunter Spears, junior offensive guard, former defensive tackle
No. 68 Michael Carmody, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 62 Marshall guard Cain Madden transfers to Notre Dame, likely 2021 starter
No. 57 Jayson Ademilola, senior defensive tackle
No. 56 John Dirksen, senior reserve offensive lineman
No. 56 Howard Cross, junior defensive tackle
No. 55 Jarrett Patterson, the best Irish offensive lineman
No. 54 Jacob Lacey, junior defensive tackle
No. 54 Blake Fisher, early-enrolled freshman left tackle, starter?
No. 52 Zeke Correll, junior, starting center
No. 52 Bo Bauer, senior linebacker, #BeADog
No. 50 Rocco Spindler, early-enrolled freshman offensive guard
No. 48 Will Schweitzer, early-enrolled freshman defensive end
No. 44 Devin Aupiu, early-enrolled freshman defensive end
No. 44 Alex Peitsch and No. 65 Michael Vinson, Irish long snappers, both needed
No. 41 Kurt Hinish, fifth-year defensive tackle, eventual record-holder in games played
No. 40 Drew White, fifth-year linebacker, three-year starter
No. 39 Jonathan Doerer, fifth-year kicker, using the pandemic exception
No. 38 Jason Onye, incoming and raw freshman defensive end
No. 37 Joshua Bryan, incoming freshman kicker
No. 35 Marist Liufau, junior Hawaiian linebacker
No. 34 Osita Ekwonu, junior defensive end
No. 33 Shayne Simon, senior linebacker
No. 29 Matt Salerno, senior punt returner, walk-on
No. 28 TaRiq Bracy, senior cornerback, possible nickel back
No. 27 JD Bertrand, junior linebacker
No. 26 Clarence Lewis, sophomore cornerback, second-year starter
No. 25 Philip Riley, early-enrolled freshman cornerback
No. 25 Chris Tyree, speedy sophomore running back
No. 24 Jack Kiser, junior linebacker, onetime pandemic hero
No. 23 Litchfield Ajavon, junior safety
No. 23 Kyren Williams, junior running back
No. 22 Logan Diggs, incoming freshman running back
No. 22 Chance Tucker, freshman cornerback
No. 21 Lorenzo Styles, early-enrolled freshman receiver
No. 21 Caleb Offord, sophomore cornerback
No. 20 C’Bo Flemister, senior running back, coming off an offseason with a smirch
No. 20 Justin Walters, early-enrolled freshman safety and likely early special teams contributor
No. 19 Jay Bramblett, junior punter
No. 19 Justin Ademilola, senior defensive end
No. 18 Joe Wilkins Jr., senior receiver, team favorite
No. 18 Nana Osafo-Mensah, junior defensive end