Notre Dame QB Tyler Buchner Is Extremely Talented, But Is He Ready?

There isn't much doubt about the talent of Tyler Buchner, but is the freshman quarterback ready to shine in 2021?
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Notre Dame freshman quarterback Tyler Buchner was a Top 100 recruit and he arrives in South Bend with a great deal of hype. Buchner is a very talented quarterback, and the two main questions about him now are how quickly can the staff develop him and can he live up to the hype.

2021 PREVIEW

There are certainly high expectations on Buchner from a fan perspective. On every social media channel in which I engage there are countless fans that believe Buchner should be Notre Dame’s starting quarterback right now. Those wishes are understandable as Buchner is the most physically talented quarterback on the roster.

Buchner’s long ball was a bit inconsistent this spring, but as a junior in high school and in a few limited clips this spring he showed the ability to get the ball down the field. The California native can certainly power the ball on throws of 25 yards or less, and he seems to be getting more and more comfortable with his remade delivery. That ultimately will be one of the keys to Buchner reaching his full potential.

As a dominant high school junior we saw Buchner show impressive timing and anticipation as a passer. On limited snaps in the Blue-Gold Game we saw Buchner show off that skillset. His first throw of the spring, in fact, was this perfectly timed corner throw.

Buchner has always had an advanced feel for the game, displaying an early feel for being willing and able to work through his progressions effectively. Combine that with his timing and anticipation, quick release and quality arm strength and he has the tools to be an elite passer.

Here’s a clip of Buchner working to the left and then coming to his backside progressions, ending the play with a beautiful strike over the middle of the field, an area the previous Notre Dame quarterback did not venture much.

Buchner is also a dynamic athlete that rushed for over 1,600 yards and racked up 28 touchdowns on the ground as a high school junior. He certainly brings a running and scrambling talent to the game that none of the other quarterbacks on the roster possesses.

But here’s the issue, Buchner has played just one season of football in the last three years. His sophomore campaign was cut short by a knee injury during the first game of the season and his senior campaign was derailed by Covid-19.

He enters his first season in college with very little experience, and the jump in competition he faced in 2019 and what he’ll face at Notre Dame is enormous, and bigger than it is with most quarterbacks.

Fans are rightfully excited about Buchner’s future, but that lack of experience also means we should have patience with Buchner. Could he gain ground quickly and eventually land the starting job? Sure, it’s possible, he certainly has the physical tools. Notre Dame, however, has no need to rush him due the presence of Jack Coan and Drew Pyne, who are also talented quarterbacks in their own right.

What is more likely, or perhaps what I’m hoping for more than anything else, is that Coan locks down the starting job and is the player I think he can be. For Buchner, the ideal scenario is that he plays well enough in fall camp to force the hand of the Irish coaching staff, who then must find ways to get him involved in the offense.

Whether that’s a red zone package, a sub package where he can run read zones and get a few throws in, or perhaps even a every third or fourth series rotation against some of the middle to bottom of the schedule opponents, the goal this season needs to be to get Buchner some seasoning.

If he’s going to win the job in 2022, which isn’t a given, the last thing you want to do is having him starting on the road against Ohio State with nothing but mop up reps under his belt.

2021 CEILING

Buchner quickly gets up to speed after missing the 2020 season, he picks up the offense in a hurry and his talent is simply too good to keep him off the field. Early in the season that means working into a situational role, but by the middle to end of the season he is thrust into the lineup, he shows off his immense upside and he has the Fighting Irish faithful excited for what is to come in 2022 and 2023 with him at quarterback.

2021 FLOOR

Buchner’s lack of experience results in him being slow to get up to speed from a timing standpoint and he’s too far behind in the offense to overcome Coan and Pyne. The season ends with Buchner getting nothing but a few mop up minutes and he remains the third string quarterback.

KEY QUESTIONS

1. How quickly can Buchner overcome his lack of experience?

2. Is he is good as advertised and can he force his way onto the field?

3. What kind of non-starting role can the Notre Dame coaching staff come up with? Better yet, will the staff be willing to develop a non-starting role for Buchner, much like they did in 2018 with Ian Book?

With each player profile we'll make a bold prediction that is geared towards addressing what the player's ceiling would look like given the right opportunity. Every bold prediction will be positive, so clearly not all can or will happen, but they are a fun exercise. Here is the bold prediction for Buchner:

BOLD PREDICTION

I could go full crazy and say he’s going to start and be the next Trevor Lawrence, but I’m trying to keep it somewhat realistic here. More likely is Buchner’s talent is just too obvious and too good to sideline him, or only use him for mop up minutes. Tommy Rees is going to enjoy his young weapon and early in the season we are going to see Buchner get some short-yardage snaps, some red zone snaps and he eventually works into a role where we see Buchner a lot this season, even if Jack Coan plays at a high level.

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