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

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28 PRESEASON 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY TYLER HORKA T ommy Rees has never been one to lose his cool in the face of chaos. Perhaps it's something he learned during his own playing days. He wasn't the most mobile quar- terback at Notre Dame. Getting flus- tered and flushed from the pocket too early often meant a sack for him. In to- day's game, especially with an athletic signal-caller like Notre Dame sopho- more Tyler Buchner, it could mean a free first down. Or a few yards at the least. So maybe that's why Rees, on the same day he learned graduate student wide receiver and team captain Avery Davis was ruled out for the entire 2022 season, stood in front of a room full of reporters with the same confidently stoic demeanor he always exhibits in such environments. Rees has apparently already passed that on to his understudy, too. "The way he handled himself in criti- cal moments last season provides us with some ability to see how he reacts in those situations," Rees said. "You're going to talk to him here in a second. I doubt he'll show any emotion." Buchner smiled a couple times and might have even let loose some laughter when he cleaned up for head coach Marcus Freeman and Rees at the podium. Otherwise, Rees was right — Buchner was all business. That wasn't a silent admission to the tall task Notre Dame's offense faces without Davis. More likely: it's just how he carries him- self, like a more agile Rees a decade later. Is everything going according to plan for the Notre Dame offense as the Irish prepare for the season opener at Ohio State Sept. 3? Hardly. But is Rees still firmly in the camp that Notre Dame can make some noise offensively in that game and throughout the 2022 season? Absolutely. Here's why. NAMING A STARTER For the first time in six years as the Notre Dame quarterbacks coach (2017-19) and offensive coordinator (2020-present) Rees will run an offense with a quarterback he personally re- cruited out of high school operating it. That isn't an unsubstantial develop- ment. Rees knew from the moment he first saw Buchner play in person at a camp on Notre Dame's campus in 2015 that he wanted him to wear blue and gold someday. Now in his second season with the Irish, Buchner isn't just wear- ing blue and gold. He's the most im- portant player donning those coveted colors. Rees said he's playing like he's aware of that designation. "You saw a step in the ownership of his role and the ownership as him as the guy who's going to be out front," Rees said. "That was really the challenge for him, and he answered the bell." The best-case scenario for Buchner, and, subsequently, for Notre Dame, would be for him to maintain health and improve each week as the starter. Health has been at a premium in Buchner's playing career, though. He missed all but a few snaps of his sophomore season in high school because of a torn ACL. He missed time as a true freshman at Notre Dame with a ham- string issue. Then he rolled his ankle on a staircase in the spring, resulting in being held out of the Blue-Gold Game. Those are enough ailments to cause concern for an OC. But when does Rees ever shown signs of distress? He's got a backup in junior Drew Pyne who has enough fearlessness in his 5-foot-11, 198-pound frame to share some with sophomore tackles Joe Alt and Blake Fisher — all 644 pounds of them. Not Sophomore Tyler Buchner will be the first player recruited by Rees to operate as Notre Dame's starting quarterback. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER CAUTIOUS CONFIDENCE Despite numerous obstacles and unknowns, coordinator Tommy Rees and the Irish offense are ready to rip through 2022 "You saw a step in the ownership of his role and the ownership as him as the guy who's going to be out front. That was really the challenge for him, and he answered the bell." REES ON TYLER BUCHNER

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