Notre Dame Quarterback Recruiting Reaching New Heights

There have been times during the Brian Kelly era that Notre Dame struggled to recruit quarterbacks.  The position was highlighted by decommitments and missing on top targets.  The commitment from Tyler Buncher on Friday, however, continues an upward trend of quarterback recruiting for Notre Dame that’s been occuring the last few years.

Including the commitments of Drew Pyne for 2020 and now Buchner for 2021, Notre Dame has done extremely well at the position.  Here’s a quick recap of the last four quarterbacks to either commit or sign with Notre Dame.

  • 2018: Phil Jurkovec (4-stars)
  • 2019: Brendon Clark (3-stars)
  • 2020: Drew Pyne (4-stars)
  • 2021: Tyler Buchner (4-stars)

The recent drop of Drew Pyne to 3-stars on 247 Sports dampened a little of the excitement at the position, but it shouldn’t.  When Pyne committed to Notre Dame in April of 2018, he was a top 200, 4-star recruit for a reason.  Oh, and Pyne is still a composite 4-star prospect and is still a top 100 overall prospect on Rivals.

Greg broke down the junior year film of Pyne on Monday. Give it a look and you’ll feel a lot better if you’re still worried about the drop in 247 rankings.

Just in case you forgot, Pyne also had offers from Alabama, Auburn, Michigan, Oklahoma, Penn State, LSU, and Florida State.  He was Notre Dame’s top target for 2020 just like Buchner was Notre Dame’s top target for 2021.  In fact, Buchner was Notre Dame’s only target for 2021.  The Irish staff did not offer a single other quarterback in the class of 2021.

A lot of credit for the most recent success should go to quarterbacks coach Tommy Rees as well.  Entering just his second season as a full time assistant for the Irish, Rees is hitting all of the notes on both the recruiting trail and on the field.  Rees was named Football Scoop’s Quarterback Coach of the year in 2018 and now he helped engineer Notre Dame’s recruitment of possibly the top quarterback in the class of 2021.

Rees still has a lot of room for development as a coach and a recruiter, but he is showing very early that he has the potential to be a great assistant during his time at Notre Dame.

Getting Bucnher out of California this early in the recruiting cycle is no minor accomplishment for Notre Dame and Rees specifically.  Despite a relatively small body of work for Buncher due to a sophomore year ACL injury, he held offers from the likes of USC, Georgia and Alabama already.  Rees and Notre Dame went into California and got him to be the first commitment of the 2021 cycle.

There have been a few bumps along the road for the Irish recruiting the quarterback position.  Cade McNamara was the first commitment for Notre Dame’s class of 2019 all the way back in July of 2017 only to decommit in March 0f 2018.  McNamara was actually just a 3-star prospect when he committed but saw his star rise by the time he signed with Michigan in December.

Part of the reason behind the inconsistent recruiting at quarterback is in part due to the inconsistency that has plagued the position for Notre Dame during the Kelly era.

The Irish could, however, be on the verge of having their first star quarterback on the field.  Ian Book wasn’t as highly rated as Pyne or Buchner or even Jurkovec.  He did, however, put up record breaking numbers for the Irish in 2018 and enters 2019 as the undisputed starter with a full off-season to work as the starter.  If Book improves upon his breakout 2018 campaign, the lid could blow off of quarterback recruiting completely for Notre Dame.

Notre Dame still hasn’t produced a quarterback who has made a name for themselves in the NFL under Brian Kelly either.  Deshone Kizer looked like he might be but then the 2016 season happened.  He hasn’t shown much in the NFL yet either despite being a 2nd round pick just two years ago. To be fair though, no quarterbacks under Weis, Willingham, or Davie ever did either.

What getting another talented quarterback into the system does for the Irish is give them a greater margin for error in finding that next elite quarterback.  The kind of quarterback who elevates the program to new heights.  Now, that could still be Ian Book. If it’s not though though; Buchner eventually joining Jurkovec, Clark, and Pyne on the Irish roster increase Brian Kelly and Chip Long‘s odds of having that type of signal caller on the roster in the near future.

Having a fully stocked cupboard at quarterback has been rare for Notre Dame and it’s put them in tough positions in the past.  When Malik Zaire went down in week two of 2015, it could have derailed the season.  Kizer was a sophomore who didn’t take a snap as a freshman who also looked terrible in the spring game just months before being thrust into the lineup.  Thankfully he rose to the occasion.

Because of how Notre Dame has recruited the position, they should enter 2020 with Jurkovec entering his junior year, Clark his sophomore, and Pyne just starting out his career.  That is also assuming Book has a monster 2019 and heads to the NFL instead of coming back for a 5th year – he still could be back in 2020.  By 2021, the quarterback room will feature even more talent.  That’s a pretty stacked depth chart.  Add Buchner into the mix for 2021 and it’s even more stacked.

None of these four quarterbacks are sure things for Notre Dame. The key here is that the way Kelly, Long, and now Rees have started to stockpile talent in the quarterback room, Notre Dame won’t be dependent on one player coming in to be the savior at the position the way they have in the past.  That’s a massive improvement from where the position has been.

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  1. It’s great ND is getting these highly rated QB’s. Now the coaches have to make sure they develop them. Once the season starts it don’t matter how many stars you have next to your name. Play well, and you will do well, play badly….well those 4 stars aren’t going to mean a whole lot.

    Sometimes I think we get a bit too hung up on 4 stars, 5 stars, etc. Now, I’m not by any means saying that’s not an important element to recruiting. I’d rather a 5 star than a 3 star any day. But really, once game 1 comes around all that goes out the window. If you have good coaches that can develop talent a 4 or 5 star can be an elite player. If you don’t then you end up with a bust.

    Also we’ve all seen examples of coaches turning a 3 star recruit into an elite player, and vice versa, the 5 star who goes bust.

    If the playoffs showed us one thing last year, it’s there is still a huge chasm between ND and elite teams out there. Now they are getting some good recruits including these QBs. But they still have tons of work to do if they want to close that gap. Otherwise we’re still going to get our heads handed to us by the Bamas and the Clemsons of the world. And that’s were we want to be.

    1. It’s all coaching. We are getting top 10 classes on a consistent basis. And then we go out and put three points up against Clemson and only making it across the 50 a few times. That is all coaching, not the players. Tranquil even said in his post game that he and Coney realized early on that they were just as fast and strong as Clemson after a couple series. Love goes down and then everything falls apart completely. Why? Coaching. One guy going down on your defense shouldn’t make all the difference. But regardless, this team had enough talent on offense to score more than 3 points against Clemson. South Carolina hung like 30+ on them.

      1. Exactly. It sure didn’t stop Clemson when they lost there D lineman. There D didn’t miss a beat. But lets be honest Clemson was way superior at the skill positions and especially at Quarterback.

      2. I don’t buy it. Depth is another issue, and we clearly didn’t have Clemson’s depth.

    2. I’m late to this discussion, but I think “huge chasm” is exaggerated. That’s ok, though; it’s what Alabama fans think as well. We might very well have beaten Bama if we had drawn them first. They didn’t do any better against Clemson than we did.

  2. We are talking about college football not pros. Comments about how ND has not had great Qbs is solid when it comes to professional. But don’t dare say that Steve B, Tony R, Rick M, and Brady Q were not great Qbs.

    1. All of the QBs that you mentioned haven’t been at Notre Dame in 30 years which is the point of the article.

  3. Joe Montana was the last ND QB to make a name for themselves in the NFL!

    So this isn’t a BK problem only.

    1. In fact, ND has only had two elite NFL QBs since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger in 1970, hich is as far back as my own personal memory goes.

      The two “Joes” are, of course, Joe Thiesmann and Joe Montana. That’s it, folks.

      That’s a long time to go without an elite-level NFL QB.

      Just think of Miami’s run beginning with Jim Kelley and Bernie Kosar. Of course, that well has dried up a long time ago, too.

      1. Ergo: two of the three National Championships Notre Dame has won since the 1970 merger were won without elite NFL quarterbacks (’73 and ’88). If you count 1993 as a National Championship year, as I do, then that number rises to 3 out of 4. Not saying that we don’t need an elite QB, SFR…but I am saying that NCs can be won without one. I’d also say that the list of great NFL quarterbacks, some with Super Bowl rings, who NEVER won a college national championship is a pretty long list. College ball and NFL ball are two different games.

        BGC ’77 ’82

      2. I’m in Bruce’s camp on this one, Jeff. All you have to do is look at the pro careers of Alabama’s quarterbacks who have won NCs in the Saban era: Jake Coker, Blake Sims, AJ McCarron and Greg McIlroy. None of these guys would meet any criterion of elite.

    2. Actual quote from the article: “To be fair though, no quarterbacks under Weis, Willingham, or Davie ever did either.”

  4. Still have to put great talent around the qb and develop and utilize his skills. I like many of the assistant coaches Kelly has brought in the last couple of years.Still not sure about Long. This year will tell imho.

  5. One of these Qb’s will Transfer before they get to play. All these guys are qb1 at their school and it is difficult for them to watch. I could see Drew Pyne choosing a different school at signing day.

    1. Frank wrote:
      “If Book improves upon his breakout 2018 campaign, the lid could blow off of quarterback recruiting completely for Notre Dame.”
      If Book does, he’ll be NFL bound; if he doesn’t, he’ll be finishing up somewhere else as Phil takes the reins as QB.
      Book could finish his 5th year probably @ WA. St. where he originally was going to sign, as their O’ fit Book’s style and strengths which is why “Mad” Mike Leach was upset when Ian decided on ND.
      Wa. St. under Leach waste no time “establishing the run!” Wide-open let it fly!
      Not as balanced, but ‘balanced’ and Leach don’t belong together in the same sentence anyway.
      So I’m guessing we have Book for one more season and, with three still there by 2021, with three still there, that next choice will have to be a young QB recruit who believes he can beat out those already there.
      Which is just the kind of QB you want.
      Good article, Frank. Your take on QB depth with the latest signing was spot on.
      Now, the development will be what makes the difference.
      Let the ‘dislikes’ flow.

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