Notre Dame quarterback battle must lead to emergence of difference maker

By on May 29, 2022 0

Notre Dame once again has a quarterback battle that must be fought, and as it always does, how it ends will have a significant impact on the Fighting Irish football team. Notre Dame has potential and options, but there are also important questions that need to be answered.

We kick off our 2022 positional previews with a look at quarterbacks, who may very well hold the ultimate key to Notre Dame’s success this season.

2022 QUARTERS DEPTH CHART

None of the returning quarterbacks have much experience. Second year Tyler Bucher played a niche role as a runner last season and as a junior Drew Pyne the experience came in two games against Wisconsin and Cincinnati.

Both have a lot to prove, and their lack of experience combines with Buchner’s injury history and Pyne’s difficult spring to raise serious concerns about the position. When there are questions about the quarterback’s position, there will be questions about the offense, and the questions about the offense are a big reason for any doubt national pundits and analysts have about the Irish.

A BUCHNER ESCAPE MEANS GREAT THINGS FOR OUR LADY

I’m a huge Pyne fan, but there’s no doubt Notre Dame’s greatest offensive potential comes with Buchner at quarterback. From the point of view of pure talent, Buchner compares himself with Phil Jurkovec, Everett Golson, DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire when it comes to the most physically gifted quarterback to adapt to the Irish in the past decade.

Buchner has already shown he’s a weapon in the running game, rushing for 336 yards (7.3 ypc) and six touchdowns on just 46 carries last season. He’s the same young man who rushed for 1,610 yards and 28 touchdowns as a junior. He showed he was a legitimate weapon on designed runs, but as a set-up player, Buchner also showed he could use his particular athletic skills to make plays with his legs when passing plays fail.

If Buchner wins the job, I have no doubt he will make a lot of real plays with his legs, but if he wants to lead a Notre Dame offense capable of making a championship run, he will have to take a big leap this season with his arm.

The fact that he missed his senior season because of Covid-19 restrictions in California, that he tinkered with his throwing motion and the role he had as a true freshman raised doubts about his passing ability. But Buchner has passing skills, which he showed as a junior when he passed for 4,474 yards and 53 touchdowns.

Buchner has the arm skills, the intellect and the sense of the game to be an impact player in the passing game, I’m sure. Decision-making consistency and accuracy are key for Buchner to make a leap forward this season.

If his decision-making becomes consistent, Buchner will win the starting job and beyond that he will immediately become a deciding factor for the Irish attack.

PYNE MUST BOUND BACK

Pyne lacks Buchner’s God-given physical tools, but what he lacks in those areas he makes up for in others. Pyne is a highly intelligent quarterback with top-notch leadership traits. Players rally around him, it was evident every time he was on the pitch in 2021, and it’s something you constantly hear from his teammates.

Pyne came off the bench in Notre Dame’s win over Wisconsin, and after being sacked and fumbled in his second series, the Connecticut native showed his moxey when he rallied to lead Notre Dame in the a touchdown in the fourth quarter and a drive on goal to pull off the late rout. He entered the Cincinnati game a week later with the Irish down 17-0, but the plucky young caller made plays with his arm and powered up a pair of touchdowns that cut Bearcat’s lead before that the Irish did not falter late.

Pyne’s grittiness and arrogance made him a fan favorite, and those traits put him in this competition before the fall.

It was going to be tough for Pyne to beat Buchner, and a tough spring was capped off with a brutal spring performance. That put him further behind Buchner, and he’ll need a solid summer and a strong start to fall camp in order to really challenge the starting role.

But Pyne will impact this football team whether he starts or not. His leadership improves the unit whether he starts or not, and at some point his number will be called for one reason or another, and Pyne has to be ready for that moment.

ANGELI SHOWS PROMISE….AND BALANCE

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First-year student Steve Angeli was one of my lowest-ranked rookies in the 2022 class, and while he’s an obviously smart quarterback with decent tools, he wasn’t too experienced or productive in high school, barely making it past 2,000 passing yards for his career.

But the young caller impressed me in the spring, and he will have a chance to make my ranking look bad at some point. He’s a confident young quarterback with a good frame and his arm strength continues to improve. Angeli still struggles with ball placement, but he showed good timing and decision-making as a true freshman.

What we saw from Angeli in the Blue-Gold Game is that despite his general lack of experience, the New Jersey native has ice in his veins. Angeli was calm and collected while leading the gold team on a winning run.

I’m not sure 2022 will be the year, but Angeli is going to make her presence felt at some point in her Notre Dame career.

THREE BIGGEST QUESTIONS IN THE QUARTERBACK

There are three key questions that need to be answered about the Notre Dame quarterback in 2022.

1. Can Buchner stay healthy – Not only did Buchner suffer a season-ending injury in high school (2018) and battle a few nagging injuries during his career at South Bend, but his style of play also raised understandable concerns about his ability to get through a together season.

2. Is Buchner ready to handle the pressure – If Buchner stays healthy and wins the job, he will enter the season with the talent to be an impact player. The question then becomes whether he is ready to handle the pressure of being the starting quarterback. Can he handle a tough road environment like Columbus, Ohio and can he step into games in the spotlight against teams like Clemson and USC.

3. Can Pyne Rebound – Pyne’s spring struggles are concerning, and he will need to overcome them at fall camp and once again become the savvy, confident player who can separate defenses.

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Content of the Irish breakdown

Notre Dame List 2022
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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