NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Quarterback, a position like no other, especially at Notre Dame. There is no position on a football field that inspires both awe and anger when it comes to stacking portions like the quarterback does. For the second year in a row, Notre Dame is heading into fall training camp with a quarterback derby.
First year head coach Markus Freiman and offensive coordinator Tommy Rees are tasked with deciding who will be the Fighting Irish signal caller when Notre Dame opens the season in less than a month in Ohio State.
Will it be 2021 “package” quarterback? Tyler Buchner or will it be Drew Pynewho finished second in last year’s Wisconsin Graduate Transfer Derby Jack Coan?
The two got the most reps on a steamy Friday morning in August when Freeman’s Irish held their first practice of fall training camp.
“Really, it’s a duel 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 of them is the spring game and the training before it. But he did 13 really good drills and I thought both guys had extremely good springs.”
Both quarterbacks played in 2021, albeit in different capacities.
Pyne saw action two games in consecutive weeks 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 through injury. He replaced an ineffective coan the following week in a home loss to the Bearcats, recording 9-of-22 for 143 yards and another touchdown.
Those were the only two games of his redshirt freshman season. His two-game aggregate was 15-30 for 224 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions, and a 50% completion rate. He ran for -6 yards on a total of six carries.
Buchner saw his action in 10 games. His raw speed and athletic prowess shone when he was on the field, but he was mostly a pace-changing rabbit compared to veteran Coan’s turtle-like feet.
The freshman rushed for 336 yards on 46 carries for a 7.3 average, but he was only 21 for 35 for 298 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions. Two of the Ints faced Virginia Tech in his biggest action of the season. The other came a week earlier in the loss to Cincinnati.
Most of Friday’s 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 semi-live action took place in red-zone situations where Buchner was not allowed to run.
“We all know he can walk,” Freeman said of Buchner. “So it’s really good for him to make progress in terms of being a passer, staying in the bag (and) making good decisions, you know, because it’s always easy to take off and run. ”
Both quarterbacks had their moments on Friday. Buchner looked much more comfortable in the pocket and was more accurate in early one-on-one passing situations without a full defense on the field. He was a little less accurate during late 11v11 practice.
He made a good decision throwing the ball out of the back endzone when it was forced out of the pocket as the defense covered all of his receiving options.
Pyne’s best play was a scramble to his right when he fired that off a low dart Braden Lenzi could do a dive. His worst game was when he forced a ball into cover Jordan Botelho thrown into the hands Xavier Watts in the end zone.
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The countdown to the Ohio State opener is on, but Freeman isn’t feeling any pressure from the 29 days between Friday’s first practice and the Sept. 3 matchup. His response to when to name a starter was soft and simple.
“As soon as we can,” Freeman said. “I love the competitive aspect of it. 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 specific time (or) specific days. But we just have to make sure we’re ready to name a starting quarterback, and we will.”
In other words, expect longer replays for Buchner and Pyne and a few chances for third-team newcomer Steve Angeli.
“What you’re going to see is Drew and Tyler go head-to-head and they both get reps with the ones,” Freeman said. “If myself or Coach Rees and the offense think there’s a point where there’s a quarterback that’s shown us clearly that he’s the starter, we’ll name him.”
In the meantime, we’ll all watch and wait.
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Contents of the Irish breakdown
Notre Dame 2022 squad
Notre Dame 2022 schedule
Large plaque of the Notre Dame 2023 class
Notre Dame 2023 Commit Board – Offensive
Notre Dame 2023 Commits Board – Defense
Notre Dame 2023 Scholarship Offers
Notre Dame 2024 Scholarship Offers
Ranking The Signatories of 2022 – Offensive
2022 Signatory Ranking – Defense
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