Sophomore Jack Coan is still the backup quarterback on the University of Wisconsin football team.
He’s just a much more qualified backup than he was at this time a year ago.
That’s Coan’s opinion and also the belief of his position coach, Jon Budmayr.
Coan appeared in six games as a true freshman, completing all five of his passes for 36 yards. Alex Hornibrook still has a lock on the starting position heading into his junior season, but another year in the system has Coan feeling more prepared if he’s called upon.
“Last year, I got on the field and had a million different things running through my head,” Coan said. “This year, I come in and I’m comfortable with what I’m supposed to do and what I’m supposed to look at.”
It takes time to master Paul Chryst’s playbook. Nobody knows that better than Budmayr, who was promoted to position coach in the offseason after spending the previous three seasons in graduate assistant and quality control roles.
Budmayr remembers what it was like trying to absorb the intricacies of Chryst’s offense. That’s the position he was in 2009, when he was a highly regarded recruit and Chryst was the offensive coordinator at UW.
The difference: Budmayr redshirted his first season — his playing career eventually was derailed by injuries — while Coan had to be ready to play in case anything happened to Hornibrook.
“I trust him a ton,” Budmayr said. “Last year, totally different situation because he was so young, but he earned the right to be the backup last year and now the expectation changes that it’s not the limited package that we might have had last year. He’s right in there every install meeting, every meeting that we’re talking through everything with Alex, Jack’s right there. That tells a ton because that trust is built through those meetings and what’s put on tape.”
Budmayr said Coan has taken “a big jump” since 2017, when he appeared in blowout wins over Utah State, Florida Atlantic, BYU, Nebraska, Indiana and Minnesota.
“He’s got great poise when he’s playing the game and I think that’s his biggest strength,” Budmayr said. “He doesn’t get flustered at all.
“This camp, he’s jumped into it. The volume hasn’t been too big for him with installs. You’re seeing the most growth in those team situations where there may be some pressure or things may not be panning out the way they should downfield, and he’s not panicking. He’s just playing the game and putting us in a positive situation to move the ball. I’ve been happy with where he’s at.”
Budmayr also is pleased with the progress of the players behind Coan on the depth chart.
On third-stringer Danny Vanden Boom, a redshirt freshman walk-on from Kimberly: “Danny’s done a great job of what we’ve put on him and what we’ve asked of him this camp,” Budmayr said. “The decision making, he’s done well with it and then if there’s something that got him, the next day he comes back and we’ll rep it again — same look — and he’s progressed through it and made the right decision. So that’s what you like to see. He’s not being repetitive with those mistakes.”
On Chase Wolf, a true freshman from Loveland, Ohio: “I like Chase,” Budmayr said. “He doesn’t think twice about throwing the ball. That comes naturally. Now, it’s a matter of tightening down what plays, what package we’re asking him to know. What we’re trying to do is keep that package simple so he can keep growing. It might be the same play four or five times, but with three different looks, so that’s growth for him.”
Throw in Hornibrook, who has 23 career starts, and Budmayr believes UW’s quarterback room is in much better shape than it was at this time in 2017. Back then, Hornibrook was set to begin his first full season as a starter and his backups had yet to appear in any games.
“They’re always wanting to grow and they’re always asking great questions for everybody,” Budmayr said. “They’re a really smart group.”