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The Case for Tyler Buchner: Perhaps Not How You Remembered Him?

By: Michael Blough | Writer | Twitter: @MichaelBloughIT

Photo Credit: Chicago Tribune

Just three short months ago, many among Irish faithful were ready to give up on Tyler Buchner, but for good reason? In this article I am going to provide some perspective as to why the optics of his 0-2 start to the season were not representative of his abilities and future here at Notre Dame. This article will include some insight into plays that Buchner made, and how the bowl game against South Carolina can propel him to be the starter next year, no matter what the Irish do in the portal.

First, lets start with the Ohio State game. The Irish would lose 21-10 after not scoring a single point in the second half, but was it Buchner's fault? I would argue partially, but there are so many factors to this question that it cannot be answered that simply. On that night, Buchner would complete his first eight passes. Now, most of these were short passes(or what I would consider "extensions of the run game"), but they worked. In fact, on the first play of the game, Buchner would find Lorenzo Styles on an 8-yard curl route that would result in a 54 yard gain after Styles made one man miss. From there, most of his passes were unimpressive to most eyes (especially ones that did not watch this offense all year long). Buchner was checking down to Michael Mayer more often than not, in fact Mayer was the only receiver to catch more than one pass. But, there were three plays that caught my eye. First, a beautiful play call by OC Tommy Rees that would leave Kevin Bauman wide-open in the middle of the field after a fake-pitch to Chris Tyree. Buchner was able to put it right on Bauman's 6'4" frame. Secondly, Matt Salerno would beat the press coverage and run the corner off on a fade route, and Buchner would drop in a nice lob pass on his back-shoulder where Salerno would make a circus catch. Third was another throw to the outside where Buchner would find Braden Lenzy on a fade for 32 yards.

So, what does this mean? Well, two things. First, we can all admit that the offensive line was doing him no favors as Ohio State was able to get pressure almost instantly on Buchner. Second, the run game was nowhere to be found all night. In fact, the Irish amassed just 76 yards rushing, including Buchner's runs/scrambles. Ohio State had made the Irish emphatically one-dimensional which did not help Buchner at all, as the defensive backs of Ohio State were simply able to keep the Irish receivers covered up most of the time. At the time, my takeaways from the game where that Buchner played "fine" and that his performance(and confidence) would improve as the season moved along. Looking back, he played much better than I initially thought after a loss. Given the cards he was dealt, he did just about as well as a QB making his first start could. Now, injury would do us no favors as Buchner would leave the next game against Marshall with a shoulder injury.

Photo Credit: (David Dermer / Associated Press)

So, what should we expect from Buchner moving forward? Well, I am optimistic. Spending the remaining games in the box with OC Tommy Rees was an awesome decision that I think can pay off ten-fold for Tyler. Reports pre-season stated that Buchner was still not comfortable with the whole playbook, and that showed in the first two games where the offense seemed to be a shell of what it could be. Spending time with Rees in the box should have allowed him to master the offense, and also get to see it from a different lens. Just looking at Tyler, he has all of the intangibles needed to be a successful QB here. If/when he can get to the level of confidence and proficiency in the system like Ian Book had, I think he will propel into a top-level QB.

As far as the bowl game goes, I would expect the Irish to do more of the same offensively. Running the ball will no doubt be the focal point of winning for the Irish, but I would expect to see Tyler stay in the pocket more often than we are accustomed to seeing, and also for him to look more vertical in the play-action game. We do not need to see Buchner running very often, or really even moving him outside the pocket given how the offensive line played for the last month and a half of the season. Without Michael Mayer in the lineup, the wide receiver core will have to step up and replace the output that we were able to get from Mayer. With a whole season under his belt, I would expect to see a lot more from Tobias Merriweather (who I am VERY excited about), Deion Colzie, and Lorenzo Styles.

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

Lastly, lets take into account what this offense will have next year. The Irish just had their best WR recruiting class in quite some time, which is going to give Tyler many more options for nest year, and the year after. The Irish were also able to pickup Kaleb Smith in the transfer portal. Smith will bring a big frame (6 foot 2) to the Irish and also provide more depth at that position, where ND will have 10 players in that room. Having said that, in the upcoming matchup vs South Carolina, I just want to see Tyler stay healthy, make throws from the pocket, and look more confident than he did earlier in the year. With added weapons and another year to master the offense, TB12 is the QB that I am riding with here at Notre Dame.

Note: Sam Hartman has entered the transfer portal from Wake Forest and is expected to land here in South Bend. This makes me more excited for the Irish QB room in 2023, and I think another star QB in the room will undoubtedly help the Irish in terms of both development and proficiency. It's time for Tyler to play like the starter in the bowl game and carry that momentum into the offseason where he will continue to progress alongside Hartman.

Let's hear your thoughts! Who would you rather see taking snaps for the Irish? Buchner or Hartman? Go Irish!


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