Blue and Gold Illustrated

August 2022

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

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26 AUGUST 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY TYLER HORKA I f Marcus Freeman is being coy about the Notre Dame q u a r te rba c k s i t u a t i o n , then sign him up with an acting agency. Freeman's stance seems to be far from a fabrication. He sounds genuine when he says the job is very much still up for grabs. Sophomore Tyler Buchner is widely viewed as the favorite to start over junior Drew Pyne. It's been trending that way since Wisconsin graduate transfer Jack Coan departed the pro- gram after one season and 13 starts, the last of which was a record-setting Fiesta Bowl loss. Coan attempted 68 passes, more than any quarterback ever has in a game in Notre Dame history. His 509 passing yards ranked second only to Joe Theismann (526 vs. USC in 1970) among all-time Irish single- game performances. Freeman isn't look- ing for gaudy numbers from Buchner or Pyne. He's simply looking for a reliable starter. Then he can go from there. Freeman wouldn't tell Blue & Gold Illustrated who he thinks that starter would be in an exclusive interview in his office in late June. He might already have a hunch privately, as many do, but he won't say so publicly. An act? Only he and those behind closed doors can say. But when the doors are open, as they were for the interview in his office, Freeman doesn't budge. " I t's g rea t b e - c a u s e y o u h a v e c o m p e t i t i o n ," h e said. "We haven't named a starter. I really like that we have a little healthy competition. It puts pressure on people. Pressure is good. You can see who's go- ing to thrive under pressure and who's not going to thrive under pressure." Notre Dame coaches caught glimpses of that last season. Buchner played 163 snaps. Pyne played 53. Buchner com- pleted 21 of 35 pass attempts for 298 yards with 3 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Pyne went 15-of-30 passing for 224 yards with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. Those are decent sample sizes consider- ing both QBs backed up a veteran signal- caller who started every game. The ways in which the sample sizes came about, however, were entirely dif- ferent. Buchner admitted in the spring that the player folks saw wearing No. 12 for the Notre Dame offense in the fall of 2021 won't be identical to the one they'll see a year later, for example. Every player progresses or regresses. T h e o n ly t h i n g t h a t's co n s ta n t i s change. But if Buchner is named Notre Dame's starter, there will be more change from one year to the next than occurs with the average player at any other position. Buchner won't run more than he'll throw like he did last year. He had 46 rushing attempts (for 336 yards and 3 touchdowns) compared to the aforemen- tioned 35 pass attempts. A dual-threat quarterback can certainly be to a team's advan- tage — but only if both sides of the "threat" are truly threaten- ing. Buchner is out to prove he's the entire package rather than a package player; one who can only produce in a specific set of circumstances. In other words, a dumbed-down playbook. The 5-11½, 200-pound Pyne, meanwhile, makes up for what he lacks in athleticism with moxie. He showed it when he threw for 81 yards and a touchdown against Wisconsin and later passed for 143 yards a n d a to u c h d ow n against Cincinnati, both of which were relief efforts spell- ing Coan for injury against the Badgers and ineffectiveness against the Bearcats. The only way Pyne is going to beat out Buchner is if he proves he's a far better passer, though. He had all of 15 spring practices to do so, including a Blue- Gold Game that Buchner did not appear in because of an ankle ailment (which has fully healed), but he couldn't do it. Thus, Buchner has the edge entering fall camp. One of the two is going to start for the first time ever in his college ca- reer against Ohio State on Sept. 3. You can put Buchner in as a change-of-pace quarterback and you can ask Pyne to relieve Jack Coan in the second half of a game for whatever reason. But asking one of them to start against the presumably top-five Buck- eyes under the lights at The Horseshoe in Week 1 is an entirely different request. DECISION TIME Marcus Freeman has yet to name Notre Dame's starting quarterback, but his choice could be coming soon "The minute you feel like there's a distinct advantage for one guy, then you'll name a starter so you can get that cohesiveness across your offensive unit." FREEMAN ON NOTRE DAME'S QUARTERBACK SITUATION Sophomore Tyler Buchner is the presumed starter at quarterback, but he has to earn the job in fall camp. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER

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