Notre Dame got some surprising news at quarterback on Friday when junior Drew Pyne announced he was entering the transfer portal. The Irish got some positive news at the position on Friday as well, though, with reports the sophomore Tyler Buchner, whose been out since the second game of the year, will play in Notre Dame’s yet-to-be-determined bowl game. Football Scoop’s John Brice was first with the news.
It’s not clear yet if Buchner will start, but one would assume that if he’s healthy enough to play, he’s healthy enough to start the game. Last week, Marcus Freeman hinted that Buchner could play in the bowl game, but at the time, he wasn’t 100% cleared by team doctors. It sounds like that might have happened based on Brice’s reporting and subsequent reporting by virtually every Notre Dame media outlet.
If Buchner is available but unable to start, Notre Dame will turn to true freshman Steve Angeli who only played sparingly as Pyne’s backup throughout the season.
Buchner had a very rough start to the season before he went down with the shoulder injury that cost him the final ten games of the season. Buchner looked cool and calm in the face of pressure in his first start of the season on the road against Ohio State. He didn’t have a lot of receivers running open but made the most of his opportunities. A week later, against Marshall, Buchner was under siege as the Irish offensive line was a turnstile all night long, and Buchner rarely had time to throw. Buchner then threw a pick-6 that essentially put the game out of reach in one of Notre Dame’s two inexplicable losses this year.
Since Buchner’s injury, the Notre Dame offensive line stabilized outside of a relapse in the second half of the Navy game when the Midshipmen sent the house almost every down. A healthy Buchner behind the offensive line we saw in October, and most of November should be exciting for Notre Dame fans. There is a reason that Buchner won the starting job in the summer, and we didn’t really get a great chance to see that before Buchner’s latest injury.
The wide receiver position has evolved since Buchner’s injury as well. In the first two weeks of the year, Notre Dame had Lorenzo Styles, Braden Lenzy, and Matt Salerno, and not a whole lot else. However, Sophomores Jayden Thomas and Deion Colzie emerged over the second half of the season. Freshman Tobias Merriweather also flashed before missing the last two games of the season with a concussion. Logic suggests that Merriweather should be available for the bowl game as well.
It’s no secret that Notre Dame will target a transfer quarterback this off-season. That is likely why Pyne left when he did, so Buchner getting the chance to stake his claim to the QB1 position before that transfer arrives, is a golden opportunity for him.
We didn’t get a chance to see the offense that Notre Dame thought it would be able to run at the start of the season, given the early struggles of the offensive line and then Buchner’s injury. Pyne is a very different quarterback than Pyne, so Tommy Rees and the Irish offense had to adjust. To Pyne’s credit, he still managed to lead Notre Dame to an 8-2 record and had some big games along the way.
However, the offense was still limited, and if Buchner has the entire offense at his disposal, we could get a glimpse of what Notre Dame thought the offense would look like. Also, given the time off and Buchner’s latest injury, it would make sense for Rees to limit the called QB runs that figured to be a staple of the offense with Buchner.