Notre Dame’s 2021 quarterback depth remains intact, but its future depth took a hit Tuesday afternoon when junior Brendon Clark announced an intention to transfer.
“It is in my best interest that I enter my name into the transfer portal,” Clark wrote on Instagram. “I am looking forward to this new journey, but I will always appreciate my time here in South Bend.”
He entered last season as Ian Book’s backup before a “cranky” knee, the same knee in which Clark tore the ACL in high school, knocked him down to emergency use only and then winter surgery cost him all of spring and preseason practices. Clark was solidly not in the Irish plans this year, mostly because he simply had not been able to play, through no fault of his own.
During last week’s idle week, Clark began seeing his first notable practice time above scout-team reps.
“We’re trying to get (Clark) ready, too,” head coach Brian Kelly said Monday when discussing the balancing act innate to Notre Dame’s quarterbacks room. “Most of our 7-on-7 reps against our defense during the bye week we gave to Brandon Clark because we’re trying to get the rust off of him and get him back.”
The lost year dropped Clark from Ian Book’s heir apparent to third-string likelihood entering next spring. Thus, if healthy, his transfer makes sense, particularly given the nature of college football in 2021. His path to playing time with the Irish has become a tenuous one, at best. Two quarterbacks younger than him — freshman Tyler Buchner and sophomore Drew Pyne — stood between Clark and a starting role in South Bend.
A consensus three-star prospect, Clark chose Notre Dame after de-committing from Wake Forest, also then considering Clemson and North Carolina. The Irish only pursued Clark when Cade McNamara flipped from Notre Dame to Michigan and their immediate contingency plan, Graham Mertz, stayed true to his commitment to Wisconsin. Ironically, it was Mertz who took the Badgers starting job when Jack Coan suffered a foot injury, thus leading to Coan transferring to Notre Dame because the Irish needed a veteran passer due to Clark’s knee injury.
If Mertz had committed to Notre Dame, Clark may be backing up Sam Hartman on an undefeated Wake Forest team, or if Clark’s knee had held up, Coan may have found another transfer home, since the Irish would not have had dire numbers in the quarterbacks room.
Clark finishes his Notre Dame career with four appearances, completing 2 of 4 passes for 29 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown pass to Braden Lenzy, along with taking five carries for 33 yards.
— Brendon Clark (@bren__clark) October 19, 2021