Top 2018 QB target Phil Jurkovec commits to Notre Dame

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Notre Dame’s first 2018 quarterback target became its first 2018 commitment.

Phil Jurkovec, a 6-foot-5, 202-pound signal caller from Gibsonia (Pa.) Pine-Richland, gave the Irish his verbal commitment at the tail-end of his latest campus visit Monday. Jurkovec confirmed the news Monday night.

Rather than offering a number of quarterbacks in the 2018 class, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Mike Sanford and head coach Brian Kelly chose to make Jurkovec the priority. The gamble paid off with his commitment Monday.

Jurkovec, a four-star recruit, has been identified by 247Sports as the top dual-threat quarterback in the 2018 class. The recruiting service only ranks eight players ahead of him regardless of position.

CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said Jurkovec is close to being a five-star prospect.

“He has a real strong, whip-like arm that’s even going to get bigger,” Lemming said. “He’s a confident, productive kid playing a really good program. This is a major catch for Notre Dame.”

Jurkovec earned the praise — and more than a dozen scholarship offers — with a prolific sophomore season. He threw for 2,560 yards and 20 touchdowns by completing 176 of his 264 passes (67 percent) with only four interceptions. Jurkovec also rushed for 1,250 and 11 touchdowns.

He committed to commit to Notre Dame over Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, UCLA and Pittsburgh.

Sanford built a strong relationship with Jurkovec since offering him in November. Sanford visited his school multiple times, and Jurkovec returned the favor with visits this year in March and earlier this week. Jurkovec also attended the USC game in October.

Sanford discussed his strategy of prioritizing one quarterback in a class on signing day in February. Notre Dame’s coaching staff cannot comment on verbally committed players until they sign or enroll at the university.

“I really do believe that the way we go about our recruiting at Notre Dame should be different than a lot of places,” Sanford said. “This is a place that stands for integrity, it stands for relationships on campus, the community that we have on campus.

“To me, recruiting the quarterback position in particular, which is typically a one recruit type of position per class, I want to develop a great relationship with that potential prospect. If it’s not a fit for the young man or for us, then of course we’ll extend another offer. What we don’t want to do is offer 10-15 quarterbacks, get to know very few of them and then all of a sudden we’re out there trying to grab bag at the end or during camp.”

While Lemming isn’t a fan of the philosophy, he admitted that it worked for Notre Dame this time.

“You have to give Mike Sanford credit. That's his biggest quarterback catch,” Lemming said. “I think he's going to be one of the premier players in the country for the 2018 class.”

In the 2017 class, Sanford made Hunter Johnson, a five-star quarterback from Brownsburg, Ind., the top priority. The Irish didn’t offer another quarterback until Johnson committed to Tennesee in August. He has since flipped his pledge to Clemson.

Jurkovec becomes Sanford’s third quarterback commitment since being hired at Notre Dame. Three-star quarterback Avery Davis remains committed to the 2017 class. Ian Book, another three-star recruit, signed with the Irish in February.

Notre Dame’s football lore is filled with legendary quarterbacks from Western Pennsylvania including Johnny Lujack, Terry Hanratty, Tom Clements and Joe Montana. All four won national championships as Irish quarterbacks. Montana developed into one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history after his ND career.

While any comparisons to those quarterbacks would bring lofty expectations, Jurkovec matches up with the current crop of high school quarterbacks. Lemming said he likes Jurkovec better than Johnson and slates him as a top three quarterback in the 2018 class.

Now all the Irish have to do is hold on to Jurkovec’s commitment for another 20 months or so. He could choose to enroll early in January 2018 or sign with Notre Dame a month later.

“Jurkovec is a kid that likes Notre Dame a lot,” Lemming said, “so I don't think he's going to jump ship even though he's going to have a lot of people chasing him."

Below are sophomore highlights of Jurkovec via Hudl and some celebratory tweets.

#WeAreND

— Brian Kelly (@CoachBrianKelly) May 17, 2016

Our call has been answered!!!

Who's next?#IrishBouND18pic.twitter.com/lZUMpbGmKD

— Mike Elston (@CoachMikeElston) May 17, 2016

BOOM! 412➡️Notre Dame☘ Welcome to the family @pjurkovec#IrishbouND18 #4 #Who'sNext?! pic.twitter.com/jyNMekhLbK

— Josh Lugg (@jluggnut) May 17, 2016

#RedArmyRising

#IrishBound18pic.twitter.com/puf8P6MKse

— Coach Mike Sanford (@CoachSanfordND) May 17, 2016

God, Country, Notre Dame. #HereComeTheIrish#IrishBouND18 ☘☘☘☘ pic.twitter.com/G3XQmKzkdv

— Phil Jurkovec (@pjurkovec) May 17, 2016

tjames@ndinsider.com | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Sophomore quarterback Phil Jurkovec, a four-star recruit, gave his verbal commitment to Notre Dame on Monday. (Photo courtesy of Trib Total Media/Steph Chambers)