Notre Dame won’t name a starting quarterback … yet, though ‘really, really close’ to that decision

Brian Kelly did not name Notre Dame’s starting quarterback on Thursday or announce the Irish captains for the 2021 season, but not because he does not know them.

Reading between the lines, Kelly simply wants to talk through the quarterback decision with the two competing for the gig, Wisconsin transfer Jack Coan and sophomore Drew Pyne, before telling the team who will take the lead on Labor Day Eve. Last weekend, Kelly had said he anticipated deciding on the quarterback on Thursday.

“We’re really, really close,” Kelly said. “Really, really, really close. We’re not going to do it here today, but we have an idea who it’s going to be and we want to talk to the kids, probably this weekend. My guess is we’ll have an announcement for you at the start of next week.”

Whomever Kelly chooses — and every indication remains it will be Coan — some downfield potency will be vital. As Notre Dame has won double-digit games each of the last four seasons, it has done so with very little vertical passing.

“He’s got to disperse the football certainly down the field, and he’s got to have accuracy making those throws, so we’ve been looking for the guy that can make those throws vertically,” Kelly said.

That of course comes with the usual understanding of the playbook and comprehensive handle of the offense, all parts of why every indication is Coan will start at Florida State.

“Some of the things that surprised me this spring was his arm strength,” Kelly said of Coan. “He’s much more athletic than people give him credit for. Those are the two things that stand out.

“I knew he was well-coached. He comes from a great program. … We knew we had a kid that was smart and tough from that perspective. I would think that the arm strength and the ability to run were a bit more than what we had bargained for.”

Whether Coan will be a captain or not should be cleared up by Friday afternoon, when Kelly expects an announcement to go out. That is five days later than he initially suggested, but since captains technically need to be approved by a faculty board, that may simply be a logistics issue.

Kelly did acknowledge Marshall transfer and second-team All-American Cain Madden in a manner that somewhat gave up the charade of saying he needed to earn a starting spot, simple coachspeak from the first day of practice. If Madden was truly in a competition to start, the Irish would be considering him at right or left guard, but Kelly did not ever ponder that.

“He’s always played right,” Kelly said. “He’s felt more comfortable over there, so I think we kind of went with that more than anything else. I don’t know that he couldn’t play left guard. We felt like [right] was a better fit.”

That gives 60 percent of Notre Dame’s line a settled feeling, with senior Jarrett Patterson at center and fifth-year Josh Lugg at right tackle, while still another 5-7 players compete for the last two spots.

Early-enrolled freshman left tackle Blake Fisher was not part of that competition Thursday as he works through concussion protocols. Senior defensive end Justin Ademilola suffered a slight hamstring issue, typical muscular nicks early in the preseason, while freshman receiver Jayden Thomas missed practice with his own soft-tissue worry, but nothing of great concern, per Kelly.

Fifth-year defensive end Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa has flown back to Hawaii after the sudden passing of his father.

“He is on the island,” Kelly said. “Our hearts go out to the entire family and Myron. He’s in our thoughts.”

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