Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 27, 2021

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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14 NOV. 27, 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY PATRICK ENGEL T here was no nervous energy. No tense body language. No ap- prehension. None of the under- standable freshman reactions. Tyler Buchner just let it come to him. That's a fitting description of Bu- chner's out-of-nowhere college de- but, when the freshman quarterback strolled onto the Notre Dame Stadium field Sept. 11 against Toledo and lit the fuse on a five-play, 96-yard touchdown sprint. It's also a portrayal of Buchner's first Notre Dame media availability. One early November evening, the 18-year-old quarterback and two-and- a-half-year fan fixation sat at a high table in the Irish Athletic Center lounge, a room full of recorder-wielding ques- tioners staring at him. This is the other side of the Notre Dame football fishbowl he hadn't yet seen. It would be under- standable if he were antsy. He was unmistakably the opposite. There were no darting eyes or an avoid- ance of eye contact as he spoke. No one- sentence answers. No buttoned-up ex- treme caution. No nervous mannerisms. Much like he is on the field, Buchner appeared to be in command of the scene in front of him and comfortable under the lights. He dove in headfirst. "I have a girlfriend now, which is great," Buchner said, unprompted, during his re- sponse to the first question posed to him. He referred to Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly as "BK" when thinking back to a conversation they had after he threw an interception at Virginia Tech. Asked if the game has slowed down since his mid-year arrival, he offered a firm "definitely." So too, it seems, has life at Notre Dame — despite living it at warp speed. Discussion about Buchner often car- ries an undertone of expectations to be the next big one. He committed in March 2019, then a top-100 recruit and a high school sophomore. The fascina- tion around him started then. Backup quarterbacks and highly touted freshmen capture a fan base's imagination like no other players can, especially with a weekly tease of playing time that fuels the fire. Notre Dame quarterbacks are always under the lamp, warmed for the right moment to hatch. Ramp the heat up a level for Buchner. Yet life in this spot appears to suit him. And, in his words, it's "joyful." "I enjoy just being at the game," Bu- chner said. "It's always fun mentally seeing what the defense is in, seeing what they're doing. And [starting quar- terback] Jack [Coan] — one of my good friends — is playing, and I want to see him do well." Notre Dame fans who want to see Bu- chner now have gotten their wish. He is in every game plan despite not starting. The redshirt is off. He's in the deep end and keeping himself afloat. "He's a fast learner," Coan said. "He just wants to keep building and keep getting better." SLOWING DOWN Buchner's circumstances screamed redshirt. He played 13 games of high school football against laughably in- ferior San Diego-area private school competition and saw his senior season sideswiped by COVID-19. He enrolled early at Notre Dame, skipping Califor- nia's shortened spring makeup sched- ule in favor of jump-starting his college football education. It was no ordinary freshman transition. Ten games into his first college sea- son, though, he's not only just playing, but is no longer restricted to a specific package of plays. He's Notre Dame's second-leading rusher, with 213 yards and two touchdowns on 38 carries. As a passer, he has completed 17 of 28 for 285 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions. He entered the Irish's game against Georgia Tech with eight straight completions across four games. "He's an amazing playmaker," Coan said. Buchner started as a spark plug, earned a long look as the potential an- swer this year and is now a complemen- tary piece in a two-quarterback system who adds a new dimension to Notre Dame's rushing attack. Kelly credits his retention of information, understand- ing of protections, consistent accuracy and sound decision-making as reasons for his accelerated path to playing time. "Once there's a consistency in that and we see that over a period of time, there's a confidence this is not just a good day or good practice," Kelly said. "We can feel like this is something that's habit-forming, and we can expect to see CALM IN THE FAST LANE Freshman quarterback Tyler Buchner is handling his role and mighty expectations with impressive poise

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