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Notre Dame Football

Sunday Reflections

August 14, 2022
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June 16th, 2018. 

No one remembered the day until Saturday’s press conferences as Tyler Buchner was named Notre Dame’s starting quarterback, but four years later, it could be a pivotal moment for the Irish program. 

Buchner and receiver Lorenzo Styles camped, impressed, stayed after to workout for Tommy Rees and Chip Long and then both prospects were offered on the field of Notre Dame Stadium. 

The offers probably were likely skimmed over at the time as both had finished their freshmen year of high school less than a month before the camp. Buchner was a Michigan lacrosse commit at the time and lived in La Jolla (Calif.), but had Chicago ties. Styles was an Ohio State legacy and lived 25 minutes from The Ohio State University. 

What stood out that day? 

Tyler Buchner.

Buchner arrived in South Bend with football offers from Alabama, Georgia, Michigan and USC in hand. And It took about five throws for everyone to see why. Buchner's talent was head and shoulders above the other prospects, but he also moved at a different speed than his fellow quarterbacks. 

Now, there weren’t a lot of completions in the 1-on-1 portion as Buchner overthrew just about everyone when it came to deep balls, but that’s somewhat expected in camps, especially given the difference in talent. The California native was extremely accurate in drill work, which made it easy to why Power Five programs were making an early move on him. 

Perhaps the most impressive piece of the day was Buchner’s attitude. There were drops and timing issues, but he never got down on himself or the other players. You see quarterbacks start to get frustrated at camps many times as there is no chemistry or rapport, but Buchner never got flustered. 

“Talent,” Rees stated on Saturday when asked what stood out about that day. “We were in the stadium, 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 if not better. Going into sophomore year, he played a little bit, 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, my dad. Ty was born in Winnetka, where my father grew up. There was like an instant connection. The more time I got to spend around him, 'OK, this is the type of personality that can be the quarterback at Notre Dame.' So it started with talent. Obviously, evaluation. And then as we dug into the character, that was something that we knew, he could lead this program."

Buchner committed to the Irish on March 8th, 2019. 

When it comes to Styles, the Pickerington (Ohio) native impressed the staff about 10 minutes into the camp. Several staff members loved the fact Styles ran a 4.43 that day and quickly started following him drill to drill. 

He wasn’t the biggest kid and his routes were super raw, but the athleticism and speed stood out. Styles blew by every defensive back and then showed he wasn’t afraid to get physical to make contested catches. 

And even after the offer, it was clear Notre Dame fans and maybe even some of the staff at that point probably didn’t believe the Irish had much of shot. Yet, it was clear from the day Styles was offered he wasn’t a lock to Ohio State. 

“People assume I would want to go there,” explained Styles two days after the camp. “That might have been the best fit for my dad, but I need to find the best fit for me.” 

Styles committed to Notre Dame on August 9th, 2019 and then went public with his decision on October 13th, 2019. 

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There have been questions about how Buchner can lead a team as he’s a sophomore and Notre Dame’s roster is filled with veterans. Sure, it’s a valid question, but his high school offensive coordinator Danny Mitchell saw Buchner grow from being named the starter as a sophomore at The Bishop’s School to a national name in two years. 

“Everyone sees the numbers, but it was his leadership," stated Mitchell of Buchner following his junior season. "He took full control of this team. That was always the question mark from when he was a freshman. There are a lot of guys with ability. There are a ton of guys who have a ton of talent and a select few who can do a lot of things Tyler does on the field. 

"What separates him is all between his ears. He runs our entire offense, but there are a total of 14 guys who played the entire game on Friday night. Of those 14, there are only 11 on the field. When he'd run on for offense, he's the one who has to make sure everyone is locked in and telling them they aren't slowing down on offense. 

"Those little things are so overlooked with numbers and with what you see on TV. That's what wins football games." 

Mitchell wasn’t shy to say there was an aura around Buchner during the 2019 season. Yes, Mitchell like most coaches could have been a little biased, but let’s be honest, Buchner had a season that will go down in high school football history. 

If you needed a reminder: 
Passing: 267-for-402, 4,474 yards and 53 touchdowns
Rushing: 128 rushes, 1,610 yards and 28 touchdowns
Total Touchdowns: 81 Total Touchdowns
Total Yards: 6,084 

"People who see him in person, you realize this guy is different than everyone else,” Mitchell explained. “Those questions for the fans wondering about competition, just watch one play when he's there." 

"I remember one of his first offers when Alabama was out here. They watched him warmup and after his first throw, they were like 'Yep. We're going to offer.'

"He's good and as a runner, he's incredible." 

Does Buchner have the drive to be great? Yes. 

The Bishop’s School just fell to El Camino in the Sectional Title game 75-59. Buchner had a game for the ages as he completed 20-of-47 passes for 286 yards and three touchdowns, while rushing for 350 yards, including scoring on five consecutive run plays. 

Yet, the first thing he did after the game was tell Mitchell he needed to get back in the lab. 

"This is crazy,” said Mitchell. “He texted right after the game on Friday. He had one of the best games ever in a CIF championship game. His first text to me was 'I have so much to improve on for next year. I can't wait to get going.'

"That's all he's thinking about. He wants to get better on the field. That's what makes him special. I don't have to challenge him at all. What he did this year puts enough of a challenge on himself. There are two other guys ever in the United States to do what he's done in the history of the game."

Mitchell has also seen greatness as he worked with the late coaching legend Tom Martinez, who worked with Tom Brady during the offseason. 

"He has that mentality," said Mitchell. "There is no peak to him. He has the same mindset as the great ones. Knowing and growing up next to Coach (Tom) Martinez coach Tom Brady. Tom Brady was the same way. I see the same mentality. 

"I was 18 or 19 when I watched Tom Brady when he was having those great years. I watched him train with Coach Martinez and he would come back all pissed off after great throw because he missed by a quarter inch. Tyler has the same mentality.

"If I had to push him, he wouldn't be the player he is right now." 

Mitchell spoke to ISD (in 2019) before Buchner’s big junior season and knew it was coming: The Crootin' Podcast | Tyler Buchner's Offensive Coordinator Danny Mitchell

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The trip down memory lane was fun, but the loss of receiver Avery Davis is very real and a significant loss for Notre Dame on many fronts. 

Davis’ decision to stick it out at Notre Dame has been well documented as if there was ever a player that earned the right to transfer, it was the Texas native. It’s never easy for a player to switch positions, especially quarterbacks, but Davis did it countless times. 

He’ll be the first to tell you there were some dark days, weeks and months during his career, but the last nine months were probably 10 times harder.

Davis was just about a month away from being able to enter the NFL Draft, but then tore his ACL in the final minutes of the Navy game. Notre Dame then went through a crazy month of drama weeks later when Brian Kelly left, but Davis decided to trust Marcus Freeman and Tommy Rees and returned to school. 

On Friday, Davis was seen walking out of practice early. We can’t see the other team as Notre Dame has fences and buildings blocking the practice fields. It’s not uncommon to see a player who needs treatment or rehab leave practice before other players as several units work after practice and just about every player hits the ice tub inside the practice fencing. 

You truly feel for Davis as he’s done everything the right way and put the team before himself for years. He pushed himself to be ready for the 2022 season because he knew the team needed him. 

The future is unknown as Davis is likely still processing what has happened, but you can count on him getting him through this as you won’t find a tougher guy. 

And not to make this about Marcus Freeman, but the first-year head coach showed why his team has embraced him so quickly. Freeman didn’t just comfort Davis following the injury, but he made sure to go to Davis’ apartment to be there for him. 

“I spent some time with him yesterday in his apartment,” said Freeman on Saturday. “What do you say to a kid at that moment? You're just coming back from an ACL injury, now you tear the other one. But I wanted him to know that he's important to this program and whatever we can do to support him, we will. It's a huge blow not the room, just the team, right? You're talking about a captain and a guy that just is a great example of what you want our football players to be about. You're heartbroken for the kid.”

*If you’re not a Premium ISD Member, check out our FALL CAMP SPECIAL. 

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