Notre Dame QB battle: Tyler Buechner named Fighting Irish for Week 1 game against Ohio State

When the Notre Dame offense takes the field against Ohio State on Sept. 3, it will be led by defensive end Tyler Buechner. The sophomore was announced as the school’s “QB1” on Saturday, ending a high-profile and hard-fought offseason of defensive backs against a potential College Football Playoff contender.

Buechner and Drew Pine were considered the top contenders in the intense offseason battle. Neither has much game experience at the moment, as Ian Book played in 45 games for the Fighting Irish from 2017-2020 and was replaced last year by Jack Coan, who moved to the grad position.

Although Buechner was not in the starting lineup in 2021, he did appear in 10 games. As a change-of-pace player from Coan, Buechner completed just 35 passes, completing 21 for 298 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. Most of his work came against the run as he rushed for 336 yards and three touchdowns on 46 carries. It’s possible his mobility will be the deciding factor against Pine, who appeared in games against Wisconsin and Cincinnati last season but hasn’t played in any of Notre Dame’s last eight games.

Buchner was a four-star recruit in Notre Dame’s 2021 recruiting class. He was the No. 91 player, according to 247Sports, and the No. 10 QB. He chose Notre Dame but had offers from Alabama, Georgia, Michigan and USC to name a few.

The decision is not a big surprise

Although there was competition between Buchner and Pyne, it was widely expected that Buchner would win the position. Looking back at how each player was used last season, the tea leaves were clear as to how they were used. Pine filled in for an injured Jack Coan against Wisconsin and played 34 snaps the following week against Cincinnati, but did not play again after that.

Buechner, meanwhile, only saw seven snaps against Cincinnati, but in seven games — from Week 6 against Virginia Tech to the regular season finale against Stanford — Buechner averaged 11.8 snaps per game. That included a season-high 43 against the Hokies. The playing time cemented him as the No. 2 QB on the depth chart and gave him a head start through 2022.

Buchner’s mobility should prove important

Buechner gave the offense another dimension with his legs last season, and they should be valuable again in 2022. On the same day Notre Dame announced Buechner as its starter, it also announced that starter Avery Davis would to miss the season with a torn ACL. The Irish already had question marks at receiver before Davis’ injury, and without an established No. 1 at the position, the offense can rely on Buechner’s legs to help keep things going and put points on the board.

Buchner also demonstrated the ability to drive the ball out of bounds with his hand. While neither has a large sampling of attempts to draw firm conclusions from, Buechner attempted 15 passes of at least seven yards last season, completing 53.3% with an average of 13.73 yards per attempt. Pine took 16 of those shots and completed just 43.8% for 7.56 attempts.

Pine does not leave the frame

While Buechner will start the year at QB1, it’s not like the job is his for life. Pine could still be called up regardless of the injury if Buechner doesn’t take care of the football or move the chains. This is something to watch out for, because while Buchner is the more explosive option, sometimes fireworks go off in your hand.

Buchner had three interceptions last season in a small sample size, and all three came on third down. It’s not a surprising result for a young defensive back who is adjusting to life at a tougher level than high school. While a year of experience should help Buechner make his decision, opening the season on the road against Ohio State will be a tough test from the get-go.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.