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NCAAF: Jack Coan to lead No. 9 Notre Dame against Florida State

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When No. 9 Notre Dame opens its season Sunday night in Tallahassee against Florida State, it will have a new quarterback in Jack Coan.

But this is by no means Coan’s first rodeo. He made 17 starts at Wisconsin from 2018-19, completing 69.6 percent of his passes in 2019 for 2,727 yards with 18 touchdowns and five interceptions.

Coan was going to start more games last fall after the Big Ten Conference finally decided to play an eight-game schedule. But a practice injury opened the door for Graham Mertz to take the job.

With Mertz entrenched as the Badgers’ QB1 for this year, Coan transferred to South Bend and won the job in the preseason. He may not have the pure physical skills of predecessor Ian Book, but his accuracy and experience shouldn’t leave him too far behind the guy who won more games as the Fighting Irish’s quarterback (30) than anyone in school history.

“He’s been really good. He’s the same guy every day,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said of Coan. “He’s so consistent in terms of who he is and his makeup, his preparation. I think he’s even improved since the spring in a number of the more detailed areas that we asked him to.

“He’s certainly been in some big games. He’s going to go out there and he’s been in this environment before. That doesn’t mean he’s not going to have some jitters, but he’s going to know how to get in that zone.”

That could be really helpful, given the Irish’s offense is as green as a shamrock. They return only two starters, although one is running back Kyren Williams. All he did last year was rush for 1,125 yards and 13 touchdowns in their run to the College Football Playoff semifinals.

The offensive line is breaking in four new starters, including true freshman Blake Fisher at left tackle and Marshall transfer Cain Madden at right guard. The only experienced hand is center Jarrett Patterson.

Florida State is hoping that year No. 2 of the Mike Norvell era is an improvement. Last season was dreadful, with the Seminoles going 3-6 in a season that featured a 28-day COVID-19 break and just two wins over FBS teams.

Norvell was brought in from Memphis to invigorate a program that floundered badly in Willie Taggart’s two years. Norvell’s track record speaks of an ability to produce lots of points with a fast-paced attack, but four quarterbacks last season combined for 13 interceptions and 10 touchdowns.

There is still uncertainty about that position. Holdover Jordan Travis, who threw for 1,056 yards in eight games and led the team in rushing with 569 yards, is being pushed hard by transfer McKenzie Milton.

Milton threw for 8,683 yards and 72 scores in three years at UCF before suffering a gruesome knee injury in 2018 at South Florida. He hasn’t played since.

“Pretty remarkable, just the things that he’s been able to do coming off that injury a few years back,” Norvell said of Milton.

Norvell didn’t name a starter on the team’s official depth chart that was released at the start of the week.

–Field Level Media

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