Kelly should look ahead, reset, regroup and rebuild // The Observer
This weekend sucked. I’m not going to lie about it. Being a student on campus when the home streak broke wasn’t easy. However, I’m sure it couldn’t be easy to be a player or even a coach. I’m just not sure if the team were fully prepared to face a team like Cincinnati last weekend, or maybe they were feeling too good after a big win in Wisconsin. Either way, the weekend resulted in a loss, and corrections need to be made with that in mind.
The Irish must look to the future. Winning almost guarantees a New Years Six Bowl, and anything is doable with the weapons on board, as long as Brian Kelly, Tommy Rees, and the rest of the coaching staff can use them properly. Kelly said on Monday they knew who would be in the backfield to make sure the Irish got the most out of the rest of the season and to focus on them again, but left the media’s imagination the choice of who that would be.
If graduate student Jack Coan reviews the pitch for the Irish, Brian Kelly has no foresight. That’s not to say Coan is worse than real freshman Tyler Buchner or sophomore Drew Pyne. In fact, I think Coan fulfilled his role on the roster as well as he could with the weapons provided to him. He entered the field in the Florida State game and has proven himself. He came into play in the Toledo game and he’s a great pocket quarterback whether the fans like it or not. To be a pocket quarterback, you first need a pocket. You need a place to safely wait and to throw away. Outside of Coan’s skills, the offensive line couldn’t give him the space to prove himself, so much so that he came out of two games injured – against Wisconsin and nearly injured against Cincinnati.
Coan’s skills require him to wait too long. Without this pocket, it’s a sitting duck. It’s not his fault, but it’s a by-product of his presence on the pitch.
In order for the offensive line to be successful, it must be able to work with a skill set behind it. Whether it’s Buchner or Pyne it’s still Kelly’s call, but they have to use a quarterback in the future and Kelly knows it, he’s definitely said it.
The fear comes because he didn’t say he wouldn’t choose Coan. Kelly already had a week where Pyne got 40% of the reps in training. After that, Pyne became the most successful option in the next two games. And, at this point, what Coan can potentially do for this season doesn’t trump what Pyne – or even Buchner – on the pitch can do for the future of the program. A national championship is more out of reach now than it was at the start of the season, as long as the training stats Coan can display won’t push me to end the season as a starter. His ability to win doesn’t override allowing one of the other two to set foot. Still, Kelly chose Coan to have the remaining 60% of the wraps and start anyway.
I said that when Coan was picked up as a transfer. I said that after the Bule-Gold game. And, I said it over the summer while I waited to see what he could do. Now it has come to fruition. It is a year of reconstruction. That timeline, to some extent, lent itself to rebuilding and setting foot both attacking and defending under them in order to move forward. In a year of rebuilding, the focus should be on a quarterback who will grow up with his team, not one who graduates just before an opening game against Ohio State.
So now that we have a loss, the time for reconstruction is upon us. Kelly has to make the call and he cannot choose his graduate transfer. It’s good to admit you messed up, Coach. Especially if it will prevent you from making the wrong decision and when, frankly, the “wrong decision” was worth it. This is no longer the case. Take Pyne and prepare him to be the star in the future.
What better space to do this than in a game that won’t be very offensive? When you have three quarters with different skills but are performing at similar levels, there is no reason not to play one against Virginia Tech. There is even less reason that the game will be oriented around defense. That way, learning the ropes doesn’t cost as much as all lack of production wasn’t necessarily going to be there anyway. Virginia Tech is known for a certain volume in its stadium which, combined with its defensive success, limits the score to an average of 11 points at home this season. So heading to Blacksburg this weekend is the perfect space for the Irish to take advantage of this kind of situation.