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Notre Dame Transcript: Tommy Rees Talks Tyler Buchner, Offensive Skill and More

Everything Tommy Rees said in today's Notre Dame press conference, including announcing Tyler Buchner as the new starter
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Everything Notre Dame offensive coordinator Tommy Rees said after today's practice.

Did anything happen over the last week that got him to the point of naming Tyler Buchner the starter or was it more about needing an identity on offense?

I would say this process goes a lot further than just the week. We’ve been evaluating it for probably close to a year. If you take a full body of work and the ability each quarterback has, we think, for our team’s best interests, naming a starting quarterback’s important. Not only for the team, but for that individual and the direction we’re moving forward on offense.

It was a very hard decision. You have two kids that are working very hard to accomplish a goal. Drew has been the best Drew Pyne he’s been since he’s been at Notre Dame, which is a huge credit to him.

We felt like Tyler gives us the best chance. To point to one moment, we had a practice a couple days ago where we probably felt like ‘Ok, this is what it’s gonna look like and this is where we can operate at our best’. We made the decision as a staff and as a group and we’re full steam ahead.

On the biggest challenges that come with starting a game in a hostile environment as a young player.

I’ll be there for Tyler every step of the way, but you gotta remember, he played three quarters in Blacksburg (at Virginia Tech). That’s a hard place to play and he operated at a high level. If he had zero experience going into this, then you try to create all these different environments and opportunities for him to learn.

But I think the way he handled himself in critical moments last season provides us with some ability to see how he reacts in those situations. You’re gonna talk to him here in a moment. I doubt he’ll show any emotion.

He played in four minute (offense) against North Carolina. When we needed a drive, he went in there on second down and converted. He was in there at the end of the game against USC to close it out in the goal line situation. He was in there for Virginia Tech. He made big plays against Toledo when we needed him.

This isn’t a guy who hasn’t played. This isn’t a guy who hasn’t played in big moments and I think a lot of the confidence we have in the staff started last year and has continued to build in the last nine months.

What’s the most important thing he needs to see from Buchner in the next three weeks?

I think the word we’ve preached all camp is confidence. I think Tyler is finding his stride, right now. So, we’re gonna continue to have an extremely confident and calm quarterback. I think we’ll just continue to build toward consistency and leadership. Those are the traits that we want to continue to come out in him.

I think part of this decision is to allow him to have that platform to really not be apprehensive about every play and every decision. It allows him the freedom to go out there and operate, knowing that this team has his back and we’re ready to move forward.

What Rees saw in Buchner to offer him a scholarship early and led him to believe Buchner could be Notre Dame’s starting QB one day.

Talent would be the word, overall. We were in the stadium and it was hot as hell. He ran a 4.68 on his first 40 and then we got to the drills and he could throw with every kid there and better.

I think going into his sophomore year (he) played a little bit and got hurt. We knew right away the talent was there. I remember spending that day, I think we walked over to the Gug, it was Ty, his dad and my dad. And Ty was born in Winnetka (Illinois), where my father grew up, so there was an instant connection there. The more time I got to spend around him I said this is the type of personality that could be the starting quarterback at Notre Dame. So it started with talent, that was the evaluation, and then as we dug into the character, that was something that we knew could lead this program.

The moment Buchner distinguished himself in the offense and balancing what Buchner could do in the offense vs what Drew Pyne could do.

I think it was an opportunity to give both guys the ability to play to their strengths. Drew had a great night that night, too. It wasn’t like it was lopsided. It’s just this is the vision of what we can see moving forward.

It has been a balancing act of, hey we’ve got kind of two systems that are operating, but my job was to give both guys opportunities in their packages and personnel. Not packages, but in their strengths, right. We wanted to give them opportunities to go out there and operate at a high level, given off their skillset and both of them did that.

I’m not gonna get too far into the weeds, schematically, on what we were doing, but there just seemed to be an ownership and a confidence that Tyler was out there playing with that night and that started to lead into some good practices and then we felt the confidence to make a decision.

What’s Drew Pyne’s role now?

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This program needs Drew Pyne. There is zero doubt in my mind. I don’t know when, how, why, (or) where...this program needs him right now and this program is gonna need him moving forward. There’s not 15 guys in this program that are more important to Notre Dame than Drew Pyne.

I cannot give him enough credit for the way he’s prepared, practiced (and) put himself in the position to be the best version of him he can be. He needs to continue to lead, to continue to be a guy that everyone counts on. He’s gonna be great in the room. He’ll be very supportive of Tyler and then, at the end of the day, he needs to be ready to play.

I think we’ve all been around this game long enough that you’d better have two that can help you win games and that’s how we feel right now. We’re extremely confident in our group. I think they’re extremely confident in themselves and we’re ready to continue forward.

Does losing WR Avery Davis to injury make him need to get the tight ends to be more integral in the passing game?

First off, you’re not gonna find a guy that’s more respected than Avery Davis. From his peers to the coaches, the way he’s handled himself. You wanna talk about heartbreak for a program. Everybody has felt that for Avery. For him to fight through everything early in his career, to find a role, own that role, be voted a captain, tear his knee, decide to come back, and then for it to happen again, I mean you can’t ever justify it. All we can do right now is love A.D. and give him our support and be there for him through these tough times. You saw the impact on the group (after Davis suffered the injury). You could feel it. That’s just who A.D. is. There’s not a guy in this program that wouldn’t do anything for that kid. We’re gonna love him and support him and be there for him.

Offensively, we’ve got enough talent. We’ve got enough talent, it’s my job to put our guys in the right spots. We have plenty of talent around this program, around this team. I’m excited for the challenge and excited for the opportunity to showcase it.

What young guys, including tight ends Eli Raridon and Holden Staes, have shown him.

We’ve got a great group of young guys. I think you add Gi’Bran Payne in there. He’s done a really nice job. Those four guys in that skill room of freshmen have really contributed over the first eight practices.

We’re trying to get them to a position where we’re gonna continue to challenge them and put them in situations to think on their own. We’ve gotta continue to get them ready to go. I think each one of them, all four of them, possess some different qualities that we can use. Again, I’m excited to showcase that and define roles for each of them. They’ve done a great job up to this point. I think when they’re just able to play and run a route, you see it and then when we’re in and it’s 11 other guys on the field you’ve gotta figure it out and operate at a high level.

What growth he saw in Buchner since winter that hinted at him being the starting QB.

Ownership, I think. I think it’s hard when you’re not given the platform to always be out front, always be assertive (and) know exactly what where you fit in, but I think he’s done that. I think we’ve challenged him to do that, as a program. Drew’s also done that. But you saw a step in the ownership of his role and the ownership of him as the guy that’s gonna be out in front. And that was really the challenge for him and he answered the bell. I think he worked extremely hard this offseason. I think he’s worked extremely hard in camp. The mental capacity that he possesses is extremely high. I think as we continue down this road, there’s gonna be more and more growth for him. 

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