A Notre Dame offseason that’s already been full of intrigue gained a little more on Wednesday morning when backup QB Phil Jurkovec’s name showed up in the transfer portal a little over a week since Ian Book announced he would return in 2020.
Jurkovec, who hails from Pine Richland Highschool outside of Pittsburgh, was of the highest recruited quarterback prospects in the Brian Kelly era and was the staple of the 2018 recruiting class. Rivals and 247 had Jurkovec listed in the top 100 for 2018.
Why is Phil Leaving Notre Dame
It would be easy to point to playing time as the reason for Jurkovec’s sudden departure. Jurkovec has played very little over his first 2 seasons and will end his Notre Dame career with just 17 pass attempts.
Ian’s Book’s return all but guarantees another season of Jurkovec riding the pine as it can be assumed that Ian Book isn’t returning to Notre Dame to battle for his job.
The interesting part of Jurkovec’s departure is that his best shot to see the field in 2020 is actually in South Bend.
Jurkovec already used a redshirt for a non-medical reason, and NCAA rules require that he sit out an entire season before regaining eligibility, therefore not starting for any team till 2021 when he would likely only be competing with Drew Pyne and a True Freshman Tyler Buchner.
But that’s where the real reasons for Jurkovec’s sudden departure could lie.
It’s no secret that Jurkovec’s career in Blue and Gold hadn’t been quite living up to expectations. In fact, after a dismal Spring game performance, many wondered if he would ever be the starter.
Brian Kelly said throughout the 2019 season that Phil was making good strides in his development, but a lack of playing time in ay kind of meaningful situation seems to hallow the coach’s words.
A strained relationship with the Irish coaching staff, and in particular Tommy Rees seems to be the real reason Jurkovec is leaving.
It’s been reported that the Irish Coaching staff began to question Jurkovec’s skillset in relation to their offensive system, at one point believing they could develop the talented prospect. It seems that the staff came to see that Jurkovec wasn’t their quarterback of the future.
In fact, many believe that the Irish staff has every intention of having ‘21 Commit Tyler Buchner start right away. As big as a recruit as Phil was, Buchner will be Kelly’s biggest grab at the position during his time at ND.
So with this information, it’s easy to see why Jurkovec would see 2020 as a wasted season. His only real shot to play next year is an Ian Book injury.
It’s uncertain where he will end up, but one would not be surprised if he ends up at Pittsburgh. We, of course, wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors.
Affect On Notre Dame’s staff perception
This is the second story in a week that’s left some Irish fans questioning Brian Kelly and his staff’s complacency.
There was the story last week that insinuated that two highly coveted recruits ( Lathan Ransom and Jalen McMillan) chose other schools essentially because Brian Kelly was not active in their recruitment.
Brian Kelly recently said that he believes that Notre Dame can be a top 5 recruiting program. I couldn’t agree more. Where I think we differ is the HC’s involvement in recruiting.
Brian Kelly has certainly evolved from the red-faced coach ready to switch QBs after one incompletion, but he has a final step to take.
He has to better understand 18-year-olds inn 2019. High school prospects have bigger egos than ever, and the best coaches understand that sometimes you have to stroke that ego.
This is just another example of a simple thing that Brian Kelly needs to be better at.
Notre Dame Going Forward
The one thing that is clear is that Notre Dame either didn’t have any confidence in Jurkovec or they have more confidence in Brendan Clark, Drew Pyne, and Tyler Bucher. Notre Dame’s staff certainly has more qualifications to judge quarterback play than a subway alum, but it seems there isn’t a logical reason to have chased Phil Jurkovec out of the program.
Optimism is certainly to be had about the incoming signal-callers, but the Irish certainly could have used Jurkovec in 2020, and he still might’ve been the best option in 2021.
Let’s hope that these unfortunate occurrences can be a learning opportunity for a Coach who has previously shown a willingness to change.