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Coan prepared to finish off successful season in Fiesta Bowl victory

| Friday, December 31, 2021

A lot of uncertainties cropped up for the Irish ahead of this season, but the departure of former quarterback Ian Book arguably became the biggest hole the Irish had to fill. While there were some struggles early on, the Irish successfully built their offense around graduate student transfer quarterback Jack Coan.

Coan has posted impressive stats for the Irish this season. He completed 67.6% of his passes for 2,641 yards and 20 touchdowns. Ahead of his final game with the Irish, Coan is ready to lead the Irish to a victory in the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma State.

Coan said he always dreamt of playing football for the Irish. He discussed his season at Notre Dame so far.

“A lot of positives came out of it for me, like playing on a great football team, meeting a lot of new friends, having a new coaching staff and gaining new knowledge about football,” Coan said. “For me, it was a win-win and a blessing.”

Being with a new team at the beginning of the season was different for Coan. He said he had to step out of his comfort zone to become a leader for his team.

“The main key for me was putting my head down and working as hard as I could,” Coan said. “At first, you got to lead by example before becoming that vocal guy in the locker room. You have to get out of your comfort zone.”

Coan said he was initially unsure what the culture at Notre Dame would be like, with a bunch of four and five-star recruits, but said he was impressed by the work ethic and dedication of the program.

“When I came here, I realized how blue-collar it is here and how hard everyone works,” he said. “One of the best parts of being here is being a part of [director of football performance Matt] Balis’ strength and conditioning program. Seeing the way the guys compete and every single day bringing the energy, that’s been one of the main things that stuck out for me.”

Throughout the beginning of the season, the Irish offense struggled at times. This was especially evident in the games against Toledo, Cincinnati and Virginia Tech. Coan discussed some of the changes his team made in the second half of the season that helped him perform at a higher level. Ultimately, this allowed the Irish offense to find ways to improve as a whole.

“The offense started playing more efficiently, and I think that started with me getting the ball out of my hands and making quick, smart decisions right away,” Coan said. “Obviously, at the beginning of the year, I was taking a bunch of sacks and I feel like a lot of that was on me. That’s one area where we have improved.”

Coan cemented himself as the starter for the Irish in the second half of the season. But early on, freshman Tyler Buchner and sophomore Drew Pyne also found opportunities this season.

He said he chose to always focus on the play in front of him and not on potentially losing the position.

“I’ve always believed in myself. I know that when I go out there, I have a lot of great teammates around me and a coaching staff that is going to put me in great situations,” Coan said. “I love to play football. Every time I go out there, I am just having fun every single snap. I am really not worried about messing up or getting pulled or anything like that.”

Buchner has continued to get reps at quarterback for the Irish, especially in wildcat situations. On those plays, Coan used his time on the sidelines to better prepare himself to get back on the field.

“When I’m out, I try to use it as a reset. I think about what looks I’m getting and maybe look at the defense when Tyler is on the field and see what they’re playing,” Coan said. “I just try to get a better sense for myself, so that I have a better chance when I go out there.”

Offensive coordinator Tommy Rees discussed his initial expectations for Coan when the latter arrived at Notre Dame. He broke down how both Coan’s physical and leadership abilities have surpassed any of those expectations.

“I think everything that we thought we were getting in Jack, we underestimated,” Rees said. “I think he was more than we thought we were getting.”

Rees said he wishes he and his staff had more than just one year with Coan as quarterback.

“I think we as a program are very fortunate to have him come through,” Rees said. “One of our biggest regrets is that we only get one year with him. He represents all that Notre Dame is about. He represents our team in as positive of a way as possible.”

Coan’s teammate, sophomore tight end Michael Mayer, also praised Coan for his ability to lead the team.

“He has kind of taken on his role to this team through his leadership and when he’s out there, he doesn’t panic. He plays the way he knows he can play,” Mayer said. “He’s been a great addition to this team, and he’s done nothing but be a great leader.”

Coan and the Irish offense will step up against a tough Oklahoma State defense on Saturday. The quarterback discussed what his offense needs to do to find success.

“One of the keys is protecting the football and not turning it over, creating explosive plays down the field, and being efficient,” Coan said. “We need to get good plays on first and second down, get in third and manageable situations, and be a smart football team.”

Since taking over as head coach, Marcus Freeman has emphasized the importance of winning the Fiesta Bowl. He has said he wants to send the seniors and graduate students on the team out as champions.

This has resonated with Coan. The signal-caller said he wants to finish off a successful season with a victory in a New Year’s Six bowl.

“I certainly want to go out with a win. At a place like Notre Dame, a lot of guys are used to being in the playoffs, so sometimes you might take a step back when you’re just in a bowl game,” Coan said. “For [coach Freeman] to say that this is a business trip and we are going to go out and win means a lot to me. It would mean everything to end my career with a win.”

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About Nate Moller

Nate is a junior majoring in chemical engineering. He is originally from a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota and is currently living in Siegfried Hall. Some of his passions include running, cross country skiing, and getting too worked up about Notre Dame and Minnesota sports teams.

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