Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 23, 2017

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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44 OCT. 23, 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED FOOTBALL RECRUITING BY COREY BODDEN AND DAVID MCKINNEY E ach recruiting cycle, programs across the country battle to attract the nation's top talent at what is the game's most important position — quarterback. Notre Dame worked quickly in the 2018 class, securing a commitment from one of the nation's top dual- threat quarterbacks in Gibsonia (Pa.) Pine-Richland standout Phil Jurk- ovec. On May 15, 2016, he picked the Irish over Ohio State, Alabama, Clemson, Penn State, UCLA and many others. The 6-5, 190-pounder was the first pledge in the Irish class. Jurkovec's decision elated many Irish faithful, given his stature as one of the nation's top overall prospects. During his sophomore campaign, Jurkovec became just the second player in Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League (WPIAL) history to throw for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 in a single season, finishing with 2,560 yards through the air and 1,250 on the ground. He accounted for 31 touch- downs (20 passing and 11 rushing). Through six games as a junior, Jurkovec was on pace to do the same in 2016 before a thumb injury ended his season. The four-star threw for 1,673 yards and 12 touchdowns, while rushing for 481 yards and eight touchdowns in those six contests. While most other top quarterbacks traveled the country participating in camps and focusing solely on foot- ball, Jurkovec spent the past winter playing for the Pine-Richland basket- ball team. He helped lead the Rams to a Class 6A state title appearance while joining the school's 1,000-point club in the process. After the basketball season, Jurk- ovec moved back to the field and began preparation for his 2017 senior season, which included a stop at the Nike Football The Opening Cleve- land Regional in April. He would admit it wasn't his best performance, but that's in the past now. Despite opponents trying to limit him passing and running, Jurkovec is still producing at a high level against strong competition. In a nationally televised contest against power Wayne High School from Huber Heights, Ohio, Jurkovec completed 14 of 20 passes for 238 yards with three touchdowns. He added 115 yards and three touchdowns on six rushing attempts to help Pine-Rich- land cruise to a 41-0 victory, playing just over a half of football. Jurkovec hasn't slowed down, completing 100 of 135 of his passes (74.1 percent) for 1,631 yards with 13 touchdowns during his first six games. He also compiled 312 rush- ing yards and 12 more touchdowns, leading the Rams to a 6-0 record. In the sixth game of the season, a 47-17 victory over Pittsburgh Cen- tral Catholic, in which Jurkovec only played the first half, the Notre Dame commit didn't put up the video game-like numbers he's become ac- customed to, but it was easy to tell the stats didn't matter. Jurkovec completed 11 of 14 throws for 161 yards with a touchdown, far from his normal mark. However, on a night where the running game took over, the young quarterback was just happy to pick up a win. "That's Phil," Pine-Richland head coach Eric Kasperowicz said. "He's probably got the brightest smile of anybody here, when a quarterback who's all about the stats and all about himself would be pouting. "He's the happiest guy around just to get the win. They wanted this one bad." It was against Central Catholic, the 2016 6A state runner-up, that Jurk- ovec's season ended when he suf- fered the thumb injury. Kasperowicz said for his quarterback, it's been a simple process of putting his head down and going to work. "He's just running the offense," Kasperowicz noted. "He's doing whatever we ask him, run the ball or throw the ball. We haven't run him much, but I think he had a cou- ple carries tonight [against Central Catholic]. "He's going to keep getting bet- ter. He's the ultimate competitor, and he's going to work his butt off. What- ever schemes we're trying to do or whatever weaknesses we're trying to exploit on the defense, he'll work to make sure that happens." National recruiting analysts have recognized Jurkovec's performance and improvement. Rivals lists him as the nation's No. 5 dual-threat quar- terback and No. 80 overall player na- tionally, but he could see a rankings bump if he stays the course. "This year he is at a 74-percent completion rate," Rivals Mid-Atlan- tic recruiting analyst Adam Fried- man said. "He was always a guy who had a huge arm and a little bit of a hard time putting the ball right on his receivers. There's some room for Phil to potentially move up. The big chance for him to move up is going to be in the All-Star games. "It's hard to give solid predictions for what's going to happen when we do update the rankings because there are so many factors that come into play." ✦ Irish QB Commit Phil Jurkovec Is Making The Most Of His Senior Season Jurkovec threw for 1,631 yards and 13 touch- downs in his first six games of the 2017 season. PHOTO BY RYAN DONNELLY/COURTESY RIVALS.COM

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