Phil Jurkovec

Notre Dame quarterback Phil Jurkovec (left) has entered his name into the NCAA’s transfer portal.

Brian Kelly amplified the hype.

When four-star quarterback Phil Jurkovec signed with Notre Dame on Dec. 20, 2017, the Irish head coach lauded his quarterback of the future.

“He’s the best quarterback in the country,” Kelly said that day. “He’s somebody that I could put up against any quarterback that I’ve ever seen.”

A little more than two years later with no college starts to his name, Jurkovec entered the NCAA’s transfer portal. Jurkovec confirmed the news with the Tribune after AL.com’s Matt Zenitz first reported it Wednesday afternoon. A Tribune source expects Jurkovec to follow through with a transfer and not just explore his options.

Word of Jurkovec’s impending exit came just 10 days after starting quarterback Ian Book announced he would return to play a fifth season for the Irish in 2020.

The 6-foot-5, 227-pound Jurkovec had long been considered a future answer at quarterback for Notre Dame. The Irish offered him a scholarship in 2015 during his sophomore season at Gibsonia (Pa.) Pine-Richland. He gave his verbal commitment to Notre Dame six months later in May 2016.

Jurkovec led Pine-Richland to a 16-0 record and a PIAA Class 6A state championship in his senior season. He finished his high school career with 8,202 passing yards, 71 passing touchdowns, 2,942 rushing yards and 43 rushing touchdowns in 34 games.

Rivals ranked Jurkovec as the No. 5 dual-threat quarterback and No. 87 overall in the 2018 class. 247Sports slated him as the No. 4 dual-threat quarterback and No. 115 overall.

When Kelly called Jurkovec the best quarterback in the country, the 2018 recruiting class also included Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. Both entered the week ranked among the top six quarterbacks in the FBS in passing efficiency for the 2019 season.

Lawrence will play to win his second straight national championship on Monday against No. 1 LSU (14-0). Lawrence and No. 3 Clemson (14-0) beat Fields and No. 2 Ohio State (13-1) in the College Football Playoff semifinal in December. A year ago, Clemson and Lawrence defeated Notre Dame and Book by a 30-3 margin in a College Football Playoff semifinal.

Kelly’s early praise for Jurkovec never led to significant playing time in his two seasons at Notre Dame. He played in two games as a freshman in 2018 and seven games as a sophomore in 2019 but only late in games already decided by a wide margin. Last season, Jurkovec completed 12 of his 16 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns and rushed 22 times for 156 yards in appearances against New Mexico, Bowling Green, Michigan, Duke, Navy, Boston College and Iowa State.

For all the hype that followed Jurkovec to Notre Dame, the Irish coaching staff made clear the gap it saw between Book and Jurkovec in the last year. In April, former offensive coordinator Chip Long used advanced calculus to describe Book’s level of quarterback play in contrast to Jurkovec working on algebra.

Following a disappointing performance in last year’s Blue-Gold Game, in which Jurkovec was sacked 12 times and completed 15 of his 26 passes for 135 yards, Jurkovec described his spring as up and down and not good enough to meet his standard.

“I have a long way to go with everything — physically and mentally,” Jurkovec said in April.

Jurkovec entered Notre Dame’s game against Bowling Green on Oct. 5 in the third quarter with the Irish leading 38-0. He conducted a six-play, 75-yard drive capped by a seven-yard touchdown pass to Avery Davis on his first series. He led another touchdown drive of 12 plays and 79 yards in the fourth quarter, but the Irish had to use a timeout before first-and-goal at the one-yard line.

After the game, Kelly said the Irish had to call a timeout because Jurkovec was reading the wrong signals from the sideline.

In the week following Notre Dame’s 45-14 loss at Michigan, in which Book completed only eight of his 25 passes for 73 yards and one touchdown, Kelly was asked by reporters about Jurkovec receiving more playing time. Jurkovec finished the Michigan game at quarterback with three completions for 79 yards and one touchdown on four attempts.

“If I felt like playing Phil for five plays, four plays would make us a better football team, I would do it in a second,” Kelly said on Oct. 28. “I’m only interested in how I can help our football team win. This is not about an ego or we have to play one guy, two guys. I just want to win football games by playing the best players that will help us win.”

In Notre Dame’s 52-20 win over Navy on Nov. 16, Jurkovec again entered the game in the third quarter of a blowout. Kelly complimented Jurkovec on a 17-yard completion to wide receiver Braden Lenzy. Jurkovec took a hit from a Navy defender blitzing unblocked from the outside, but Jurkovec still managed to throw to Lenzy near the sideline from the far hash mark.

“That’s hard to do when you don’t get a lot of reps,” Kelly said. “He showed some real signs. You don’t normally get those opportunities as the backup quarterback and execute them correctly.

“But 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.”

Jurkovec’s shot at starting for Notre Dame likely wouldn’t have come until 2021 with Book’s return. Unless Jurkovec receives a waiver from the NCAA, he will have to wait until 2021 to play at his transfer destination too. Because playing in only two games as a freshman qualifies as a redshirt season, Jurkovec still has three years of NCAA eligibility remaining. But one of those years would expire while sitting out as a transfer in 2020.

Jurkovec reported scholarship offers from Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Penn State, Pittsburgh and others as a recruit. It remains to be seen which programs will pursue him in the transfer portal.

Mike Sanford, who offered Jurkovec as Notre Dame’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2015, was recently hired as Minnesota’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. But Sanford, who left to become the head coach at Western Kentucky in 2017, never coached Jurkovec at Notre Dame.

Without Jurkovec, Notre Dame will likely be left with three scholarship quarterbacks on its roster in 2020: Book, sophomore-to-be Brendon Clark and incoming freshman Drew Pyne.

The starting job belongs to Book and his 20-3 record with the Irish. Clark (6-2, 217) and Pyne (6-0, 195) will compete to become Book’s backup.

Clark, a former-three star recruit from Midlothian (Va.) Manchester, played in two games for the Irish in 2019: New Mexico and Bowling Green. Clark completed his only pass for a 22-yard touchdown to Lenzy against New Mexico. He also rushed five times for 33 yards in his two appearances. 247Sports slated Clark as the No. 15 pro-style quarterback and No. 525 overall in the 2019 class. Rivals ranked him as the No. 20 pro-style quarterback.

Pyne finished his senior season at New Canaan (Conn.) High 161-of-252 passing (64 percent) for 2,107 yards and 24 touchdowns with seven interceptions in 11 games. He also rushed 57 times for 259 yards and eight touchdowns.

Pyne impressed at the Under Armour All-America Game earlier this month with a final line of 9-of-11 for 121 yards and a 43-yard touchdown pass. Rivals rates Pyne as a four-star recruit, the No. 7 pro-style quarterback and No. 118 overall in the 2020 class. 247Sports slates him as a three-star recruit, the No. 18 pro-style quarterback and No. 743 overall.

Jurkovec will become the seventh quarterback to transfer out of Notre Dame before or after graduation since Kelly took over the program in late 2009. Quarterback transfers have become a prominent factor in college football.

Three of the four teams in this season’s College Football Playoff started former transfer quarterbacks: Fields (from Georgia), LSU’s Joe Burrow (Ohio State) and Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts (Alabama).

Fields, who Rivals ranked as the No. 1 quarterback in the 2018 class, transferred to Ohio State out of Georgia after his freshman season and found success with the Buckeyes immediately.

Tate Martell, ranked by Rivals and 247Sports as the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the 2017 class, transferred to Miami after two years at Ohio State and played wide receiver for much of the 2019 season. Former Clemson quarterback Hunter Johnson, who Rivals ranked as the No. 2 pro-style quarterback in the 2017 class, transferred to Northwestern and struggled to hold onto the starting job in 2019.

After the recruiting hype comes the pressure to live up to it. Just like in the NFL Draft, there are plenty of hits and misses in college football.

Maybe Jurkovec will prove Kelly right after all. But after Wednesday, any chance of that happening likely won’t come in South Bend.

tjames@ndinsider.com

574-235-6214

Twitter: @TJamesNDI

(33) comments

Jake8589

Expected. If Ian Book continues to show his very limited ceiling and is completely anept next year again against elite defenses and Phil Jurkovec goes elsewhere and plays as well as I believe he will, Brian Kelly will have some very uncomfortable questions to answer in the future.

ClementstoWeber

Normally, I don't question the coaches, but, I agree with you. This is a huge loss. I was hoping that the ND degree meant enough to Phil to wait one more year. That said, I don't blame him for leaving. This Tommy Rees/Ian Book syndrome with Kelly seems to never end. The big coaches, i.e. Saban and Dabo make the big QB decisions. Kelly knows he wins 10 next year with Ian and is playing it safe. Too bad.....for us.

Ludwig von Football

I watched Phil Jurkovec play in high school. Several times on television and a couple of times in person. His ability to throw a deep ball to a receiver who was wide open impressed me. His running ability against inferior athletes impressed me. His throwing motion and release did not impress me. His touch on short passes did not impress me. I considered him a three star recruit with the potential to become a four star kind of guy. I was disappointed that the coaching staff did not immediately work on changing Jurkovec's throwing motion. I'm also very disappointed in Jurkovec's decision. What is wrong with waiting one more year to become the starter. It would be his job for two years. Hanratty, Clements, Theisman and many other ND legends didn't start for three years.

ClementstoWeber

You are absolutely correct about those great quarterbacks waiting their turn; however, that was a different era with different rules and different player mindsets. All those guys would transfer today. As for your three star rating......that ties him with Book then.

Charliesbills

And Kelly benched a winning Wimbush to out in Book. He is willing to make those decisions and has.

Now as to why we aren't able to recruit or develop an elite QB, that is a valid criticism.

PAIRISH9

A winning Wimbush?? We won games but come on the offense under Wimbush was inept and he was, in many games, a 50% passer or less. Remember Miami of Ohio?? Vanderbilt?? the Offense under Wimbush was not very good, and yes he did beat those teams but Brian Kelly knew better QB play was needed with the schedule that awaited. Ian Book was and is the best QB on this Roster.

jlightno1

Where are the QB's that left ND now? How many games did they start/play? There are reasons why they were not playing at ND, and didn't star at the other schools. Since NO ONE KNOWS what really is happening and just second hand knowledge and hearsay; all this chest pounding and testosterone flowing is all speculation and bs.

PAIRISH9

Well Said jlightno1--- That is a point many seem to miss in this whole scenario

Jake8589

The reality is the really good programs to not have a 5 star QB leaving unless there is another 5 star on the roster. The ND campus is not littering with anything 5 star let alone a QB with incredible upside. I can only hope at some point Jack Swarbick realizes he needs to have these difficult questions answered by Brian Kelly or he needs to make a move to replace BK if he hopes to challenge the elite at some point.

ClementstoWeber

Kelly has done a nice job, but it's time for him to move on in favor of a younger coach.

champ

Brian Kelly is a fool,incompetent and 5th rate football coach

deceptive a liar misled this young man and his family with multiple lies and misrepresntations -stung him out -bottom feeder

What is todays definition of a ''Notre Dame Man'' and his word? Answer ?Brian Kelly

ClementstoWeber

Sorry, Champ, I understand your enthusiasm, but there is a difference between criticism and bashing. Coach Kelly is wrong in this instance, but he has done a nice job overall.......just not a championship job.

kolohe20p

Safe is the word. 2020 brings 5 wins from the alliance with the conference of Clemson and the 11 dwarfs, filling in with Western Michigan, Arkansas (2-8), Navy and a depleted Stanford team (4-8, David Shaw is a better coach than Kelly) with guaranteed losses to Clemson and Wisconsin and a toss up against USC. Kelly remains winless against top ten teams on the road ( I don't count 2012 Oklahoma a 3 loss team that was crushed in its Bowl game by Kansas State

as a true top ten) and he is still winless 0-6 against Clemson, Alabama, Georgia and Ohio State.

If ND were aligned with the Big Ten, as they should be, Kelly's 10 win seasons would disappear in a flash. But CSC as it did 60 years ago still stands for "cash, strictly cash". I'd rather watch a Navy game than ND vs, New Mexico.

ClementstoWeber

I understand your thoughts, but I do believe that we beat Wisconsin next year and give Clemson a great game at home; however, Kelly does have ten wins locked in with Book, but can't beat a very good team like Clemson, a New Years Day Six Bowl opponent or a playoff opponent without a bigger arm. He just let one go. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't be shocked if we upset Clemson and went 12-0, but don't count on it. Saban moved on from Hurts to Tua, Dabo moved on from a less-gifted winner in Bryant to Lawrence.......Kelly pockets his sure ten wins with Book, afraid to make that decision.

Ludwig von Football

It's sad that everyone speaks as though we were at practice every day and knew everything there is to know about the QB situation at ND. What we know is this: 1) Ian Book's biggest weakness is his inability to throw the deep pass so we don't stretch the field vertically. That hurts our offensive productivity. You have to attempt a few long passes to keep the opponent's defense honest. 2) Phil Jurkovec has not looked good in the Blue & Gold game. His appearances during the regular season are hard to judge because he is usually playing against the opponents second team defense. The writers who see ND practice on occasions have never said they are really impressed with Jurkovec. He is making a mistake by entering the transfer portal. Wherever he ends up he will have to sit out a year and still wait his turn. In short, the situation is no different than if he stayed at ND.

ClementstoWeber

I don't disagree with any of that.

ClementstoWeber

Michigan was not playing their second team defense, in fact, they were trying to bury us and run up the score; yet, Phil came in and marched us down the field to score, threading the needle on some needed completions, something Book couldn't do all night.

JackMBA

Phil is a great QB and he is substantially better than the other QB's. Even Joe Montana had to wait his turn. Phil probably made the right choice but I hate to see him go. I agree with Kelly's statement that Phil is the best QB in the country

Jake8589

Here is an analogy to remember. Playing QB is a lot like potential in golf, unfortunately your ceiling is dictated by arm strength due to the speed of the athletes much like todays young golfers potential is dictated by the distance they can hit the ball, its a power game in today's world. My 11 yr old son competes on the PGA junior tour and it's no secret that the potential/ceiling is guaged by the distance a player can hit the ball. Same with a college QB and more importantly the pro's you simply can not succeed at the highest level without a certain amount of arm strength due to the athleticism of the defense.

champ

What to the futures and lives of the following Brian Kelly coached qbs at our beloved Notre Dame?

Golson,Wimbush,Zaire,Wimbush,Kizer??An ESPN special to interview these five Notre Dame men,former quarter backs in a no hold barred question and answer session on the character and opinion on their life and time under Coach Brian Kelly ,with Kelly in the same interview room is needed -Go Irish Go Phil and best of success in your future

JackMBA

ND does not need ESPN because Winbush and Golson had the same QB coach and played very well on occasion

rays1969

If he was better than Ian Book, he would be playing. Period. He wasn't better and still isn't. Most of these kids have no patience anymore. Its a new generation and basketball is the same way.

ClementstoWeber

Really? Some people don't get a chance. How about the QB's who stood by and watched the coach's love affair with Tommy Rees?

PAIRISH9

rays1969 I agree 100% with you. Everyone always thinks they know what happens in practice. Brian Kelly is trying to win Football games Period!! It's ridiculous for anyone on the outside to make a blanket statement that anyone is better than anyone. Ian Book has won a lot of Football games in his time in South Bend. I wish Jurkovec well but sometimes kids just don't pan out or need a change, which is fine, but simply stating that he is Better that Book is both short sighted and wrong.

ClementstoWeber

and what is Kelly's record over ten long years? I guess what happens in practice stays in practice.

Levi574

Rays1969 he is most Definitely Better Than Ian this kid will have better Numbers Next Year than any of Notre Dame previous 2 Quarterbacks I mean Ian can't win a Game against tuff teams happened last year with Miami Happened this Year with Michigan Brian Kelly keeps us relevant yes but he will never bring a Championship to South Bend

PolishPrince

Brian Kelly never met a five star quarterback he thought was worthy of playing football at Notre Dame. Do the names Dayne Crist, Gunner Kiel , and now Phil Jurkovec. The loss of Jurkovec was obvious . Hopefully this will be the final straw that finally rids the University of Mr. Kelly. If I'm a highly rated quarterback there is no way I would have anything to do with a coach who has destroyed some of the most highly recruited players at that position. Recruits beware there is still time to find a home where the coaches develop your talents . I feel bad for Jurkovec, and hope he finds a home where he can flourish, and if he somehow gets to light up a Kelly coached team in the future more power to him.

champ

When the Notre Dame band plays our fight song in the stadium always remember

Phil Jurkovec a very loyal Son of Notre Dame

Thank you for all your sacrifices to Our Lady Queen of Victory - Go to victory Phil

OverAll

Don’t blame the kid one bit. Kelly is going to play book come he** or high water, and his record developing QBs is atrocious. I’m sure that this also means Rees is going to get the coordinator job. Phil can read the writing on the wall. Just another hit on the depth chart that separates us even further from the country’s top teams. Mediocrity is the new standard here... just get used to it. #FireKelly

Domer70

Hanratty and Theismann both started in their sophomore years (freshmen could not play in those years) and Hanratty was injured mid way through his Sr year (1968) and Theismann took over as starter, his sophomore year and started the remainder of that year and his jr and sr years. John Huarte is the only great ND QB I can remember who did not start until his Sr year, 1964. Best wishes to Phil-he will thrive under a coach who can develop QB's. Go Irish.

PAIRISH9

Kevin MacDougal waited his turn and put together a great senior season. The kid was terrific and led the Irish to an 11-1 record and a win over a very good Texas A & M in the Cotton Bowl. The Reason he didn't play prior? He was not as good as Rick Mirer, Period!! The kid worked and waited and put together a great season. I wish Phil well and hope he has a good career elsewhere, but to simply think he was not treated fairly here is total guess work. None of us has any idea what takes place at practice.

Tony the Tiger

I read a lot about portals and once Phil Jurkovec enters the transfer portal, there is no assurance he will ever get out. These portals can be quite tricky and often times dangerous.

Peter Wayne

Tyler, very nice piece on Phil Jurkovec. Reading it, I was impressed with how good he sounded...but then my memory returned and well...I'm glad Clark (might ) be getting a shot.

Someone said it earlier here, Book gives Kelly 9 wins. Nine next season following 2 consecutive double-digit seasons should be enough in Kelly's mind to gain another 10 year extension at ND. I for one, hope not.

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