NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Quarterback, a position like no other, especially at Notre Dame. There is no position on a football field that attracts both awe and anger by racking up servings like the quarterback does. For a second straight year, Notre Dame enters fall training camp with a quarterback derby.
First year head coach Marcus Freeman and offensive coordinator Tommy Ree are responsible for deciding who will be the Fighting Irish signalman when Notre Dame opens the season in less than a month at Ohio State.
Will it be the ‘package’ quarterback of 2021 Tyler Bucher or will it be Drew Pynewho was the runner-up in last year’s derby with the transfer of a Wisconsin graduate Jack Coan?
The two got the majority of reps on a hot August morning Friday as the Freeman’s Irish held their first practice of fall training camp.
“Really, it’s a two-quarter battle right now between Tyler and Drew,” Freeman said after practice. “I think they all made great progress in the spring. You know, Tyler missed the last two practices. One being the spring game and practice before that. But he had 13 really good practices and I thought those two guys had really good springs.
Both quarterbacks have seen action in 2021, albeit in different capacities.
Pyne saw action in back-to-back games against Wisconsin and Cincinnati. He was 6-for-8 for 81 yards and a touchdown pass to help the Irish beat the Badgers after Coan left the game with an injury. He relieved an ineffective Coan the following week in a home loss to the Bearcats, going 9 of 22 for 143 yards and another touchdown.
These are the only two games of his first season in red shirt. His two-game total was 15 of 30 for 224 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 50% completion rate. He ran for -6 yards on six total carries.
Buchner has seen his action in 10 games. His raw speed and athletic ability shone when he was on the court, but he was mostly a change of pace, compared to veteran Coan’s turtle-like feet.
The rookie rushed for 336 yards on 46 carries for a 7.3 average, but was just 21 for 35 for 298 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions. Two of the Ints came in its longest action of the season, against Virginia Tech. The other came a week earlier in the loss to Cincinnati.
Most of Friday’s semi-straight 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 action took place in red-zone situations, where Buchner was not allowed to run.
“We all know he can run,” Freeman said of Buchner. “So it’s really good for him to progress in terms of passing, staying in the pocket (and) making good decisions, you know, because it’s always easy to get off the ground and run.”
Both quarterbacks had their moments on Friday. Buchner looked much more comfortable in the pocket and was more accurate in early passing situations without a full field defense. He’s been a little less accurate in the last 11v11 drills.
He made the right decision to kick the ball into the back of the end zone when he was forced out of the pocket when the defense covered all of his receiving options.
Pyne’s best play was a rush to his right, when he fired a low dart that Braden Lenzy was able to do a dive catch. His worst play was when he forced a ball into coverage that Jordan Botelho fell into the hands of Xavier Watts in the end zone.
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The clock is ticking for the opener at Ohio State, but Freeman doesn’t feel rushed by the 29 days between Friday’s first practice and the Sept. 3 game. His response when he wants to name a starter was sweet and simple.
“As soon as possible,” Freeman said. “I love the competition aspect. You know, I think competition really helps people grow, but as soon as we’re ready to name a starting quarterback, we will. We don’t wait for a certain time (or) certain days. But we just have to make sure we’re ready to name a starting quarterback, and we will.
In other words, expect more extended reps for Buchner and Pyne and a handful of opportunities for third-team rookie Steve Angeli.
“What you’ll see is Drew and Tyler go head-to-head and they’ll both get reps with those,” Freeman said. “When myself or Coach Rees and the offensive staff feel it’s at a point where there’s a quarterback who’s made it clear to us that he’s the starter, we’ll name him.”
We will all be watching and waiting, waiting.
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Content of the Irish distribution
Notre Dame 2022 Roster
Schedule Notre-Dame 2022
Notre Dame 2023 Class Big Board
Notre Dame 2023 Commits Board – Offense
Notre Dame 2023 Commits Board – Defense
Notre Dame Scholarship Offers 2023
Notre Dame Scholarship Offers 2024
Ranking of signatories 2022 – Attack
Ranking of signatories 2022 – Defense
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