The rise of quarterback Jack Coan was a fast one and has Wisconsin Badger fans expecting big things from their team after a stellar start to the season.
Coan came out of Sayville, New York as a 3-star recruit and the 20th-ranked quarterback — as well as the second best from New York — in his class.
His offer sheet was full of notable schools including Michigan, Miami, Boston College, Nebraska, Syracuse, West Virginia and Northwestern, but Coan ended his process by committing to Head Coach Paul Chryst’s Badgers despite facing the present Florida State quarterback Alex Hornibrook ahead of him on the depth chart.
During the 2017 season, when Coan was a freshman, Hornibrook led the Badgers to the Big Ten Championship Game and a 13-1 record. In his limited playing time, he threw the ball five times for 36 yards.
Going into the 2018 season Coan was a forgotten product as Hornibrook received all the headlines, with the Badgers entering the season ranked fourth in the nation.
But, despite the hype from news outlets nationwide, the Badgers started the season 5-2 and quickly fell out of the national picture.
During their week seven victory against Illinois, Hornibrook suffered a concussion, and Coan was named the starter for week eight’s showdown with Northwestern.
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Coan went on to appear in five games in 2018. He finished the season with a 3-2 record, a 60.2 completion percentage, 515 yards, 5.5 yards-per-attempt, five touchdowns, three interceptions and a 118 pass efficiency rating.
His 2018 numbers weren’t anything special, and the narrative surrounding Coan remained lukewarm heading into the 2019 season.
Wisconsin has a long history of game managers at quarterback who aren’t asked to do much in Chryst’s medieval-style offense. Going into 2019, this is what Badger fans saw Coan as, especially with four-star recruit and #3 ranked quarterback Graham Mertz landing in Madison heading into the season.
In spring and summer ball, however, Coan showed signs of growth, and Chryst named him the starting quarterback on August 25, praising the growth that he’d seen from Coan.
“I thought he improved in a lot of the different factors,” Chryst said. “From his understanding of what we’re doing, his command of the offense, his footwork, I thought he made some strides.”
Chryst wasn’t the only one giving praise to Coan after being named the starter, as wide receiver Kendric Pryor liked what he saw during the spring and summer sessions.
“His maturity and his confidence level, you can tell there’s a big difference between last year and this year,” said Pryor.
Although Coan had the support of his coaches and team heading into the 2019 season, Mertz and the headlines that came with him still loomed in the background.
After two weeks, Coan just about answered every question still surrounding him, and has the Badgers primed for a repeat of their 2017 season.
Yes, the Badgers haven’t faced a real test yet, but how good has Coan been thus far?
He enters week four’s showdown with No. 11 Michigan with a 76.3 completion percentage, 561 yards, 9.5 yards per attempt, five touchdowns, zero interceptions and a 184.3 pass efficiency rating.
For perspective, he ranks third in the Big Ten in adjusted-passing-yards-per-attempt, first in the Big Ten and seventh in the nation in completion percentage, second in the Big Ten in pass efficiency rating and fifth in the Big Ten in touchdowns despite having played one fewer game than most other Big Ten quarterbacks.
These numbers are giving Badger fans flashbacks from 2011 when Russell Wilson paced the Big Ten and the entire nation in efficiency rating, touchdowns, total yards and yards-per-attempt.
Wilson led the Badgers to a Big Ten Championship and the Rose Bowl that year, and with Coan’s play thus far this season, sights are being set that high and even higher with the Big Ten and College Football Playoff races wide open.
Coan must continue his historic pace for the Badgers to reach the conference championship and be in the discussion for the playoffs. More notably, he must deliver clutch and memorable performances when the No. 13 Badgers travel to No. 6 The Ohio State University and when they welcome No. 11 Michigan to Madison.
Were he to do this, Coan will go down in Wisconsin Badger lore, a storyline nobody would have seen coming two years ago when Coan first arrived in Madison.