During his two years at Notre Dame, Phil Jurkovec threw just 18 total passes. As 2019 wore on, Jurkovec realized that his dream school wasn’t what he thought it would be and, equally important, that he wasn’t where he wanted to be, from a player development perspective.
He told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in September that he felt like he regressed as a quarterback in South Bend, lost his love for football, and even contemplated switching positions toward the end of his time with the Irish. Instead, he entered the transfer portal—10 days after two-year starter Ian Book decided to return to Notre Dame for one final season.Now, because of a COVID-19 affected ACC schedule and Jurkovec’s long-awaited immediate-eligibility waiver, the two are set to face off this weekend in the most anticipated Holy War matchup in recent memory.
It’ll be a reunion for Jurkovec as well as a chance for revenge. Irish head coach Brian Kelly talked to reporters Monday afternoon about his former quarterback, Jurkovec’s relationship with Book, and Jurkovec’s familiarity with No. 2 Notre Dame’s offense.
Reporter: “What’s both the emotional and the pragmatic part of facing somebody like Phil Jurkovec—and what I mean by pragmatic is terminology, his knowledge of the playbook and that kind of stuff?”
Kelly: “When he was here, he was fairly bright in terms of understanding what we were doing,” Kelly said, per Notre Dame Athletics. “There were times where we were trying to get him to get the ball out of his hands a little faster. But the normal, I would say, progress that most young players were making in the program, he was making. So I think that was normal.”
Reporter: “Ian [Book] and Phil [Jurkovec] seemed to be so close and supportive of each other. Do you know what their relationship is like now?”
Kelly: “The quarterback meeting room is a very supportive one. I know Phil and Ian were supportive of each other. I don’t know what their relationship was off the field. I don’t know that they ran in the same crowd. But quarterbacks are going to be very supportive of each other.”
Reporter: “When you watch [Jurkovec] on tape, how is he different from the quarterback that you last saw in South Bend. Where has his game progressed the most?”
Kelly: “Phil’s in a different type of offense than the one we were asking him to be part of last year. … In high school, he was in a spread offense—truly a spread offense—catch and throw. He was in an RPO offense last year. He is in a play-action, six-man, seven-man protection offense this year. So it’s really hard to compare where he is to where he was last year because they are so dissimilar from an offensive perspective.
“What he’s doing this year on film is he’s making plays outside the realm of the offense, which he was very accustomed to doing in high school and when he was here as well. Outside the pocket, he’s a great scrambler. He can throw on the run, he’s got a strong arm, great size, and he’s a tough kid.
“But I would say the offenses are so dissimilar, it’s hard to really compare where that progression is. But the one constant is he can make plays outside the pocket.”