We won’t know for a few weeks what bowl game will be playing in, but Marcus Freeman left the door open for injured sophomore quarterback Tyler Buchner to be available in whatever that bowl game is.
“That’s still to be determined,” Freeman said on Monday when asked about Buchner. “Right now, our doctors are not 100% sure. That will be based on how he progresses over these next couple of weeks,” Freeman added.
Buchner has been practicing in a limited capacity already, Freeman said. “He’s practicing more. Obviously, there’s no contact with him.”
It sounds as though he could be available – in what capacity, we don’t know – if he gets clearance from the doctors. “If it’s what’s best for him and he can be full go and be able to be healthy and protect himself and prepare for a bowl game, then shoot, there will be no hesitation to give him that opportunity. But that’s still to be determined.”
Buchner’s original timeline on recovery from his shoulder injury was right around bowl season when it happened in week two. It wouldn’t be the first time a prominent player was injured early in the season and returned for Notre Dame in a bowl game. Just last year, Blake Fisher was lost for the regular season in the first game of his collegiate career. He returned in the Fiesta Bowl and turned in a near-superhuman effort by starting and playing every snap.
The start to Buchner’s first season as a starting quarterback did not go as anyone planned, with a solid yet unspectacular effort in the loss to Ohio State and then a disastrous outing playing behind an offensive line that couldn’t contain the Marshall defense. Buchner was under siege all game long in the second week before suffering the shoulder injury late in the fourth quarter with Notre Dame down two scores.
We’ll never know what Buchner would have looked like if he got to play behind the same offensive line that delivered clean pockets for Drew Pyne in almost every game since – save the second half of the Navy game.
If Buchner is cleared, it would be huge for him if for nothing else than for him to get more real practice reps. Buchner has lost a lot of time due to injuries both in high school and at Notre Dame. Every rep at this point is important for him to get his career back on track. It seems fairly widely believed that Notre Dame is set to make a strong push for a quarterback transfer this off-season as well, making any rep Buchner can get in bowl prep important for his own development.
How Notre Dame might use Buchner in such a scenario would be interesting. Pyne will have at least a record of 8-2 as a starter as he enters this weekend’s showdown with USC sporting an 8-1 record. At the same time, Pyne has been uneven as a starter, and Notre Dame has relied on a heavy run-first, run-second offense.