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Notre Dame Football

Roster Review | Quarterback

January 23, 2023
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Tyler Buchner won the starting job for Notre Dame in August and gave underwhelming performances in his first two starts against two strong defenses (Ohio State was 15th in DF+, Marshall was 10th). An injury at the end of the Marshall game sidelined him for the rest of the regular season.

Drew Pyne took over and started the next 10 games. It was a roller coaster ride with big days against poor pass defenses (North Carolina, BYU, Navy, and USC) and bad numbers in every other match up.

Buchner came back for the Gator Bowl and mixed in the spectacular with the “Ooh, nope”. The spectacular won out and there was more than enough there to be excited about, but he’ll have more to prove in a quarterback competition this year against incoming transfer Sam Hartman.

Hartman arrives with record-breaking numbers. He led Wake Forest, one of the least talented teams in the Power 5, to back to back seasons of finishing top-12 in combined SP+ and FEI (OF+) offensive rating. He did that in a completely different system than the one he will play in at Notre Dame, so how he adjusts to this new system, new teammates, and a whole new environment will be what ultimately decides if he ends up as QB1.

He’s going to be the heavy favorite to win the job for a lot of reasons. The experience is one piece, but he’s been an elite quarterback on 3rd down and I believe his accuracy and interception numbers can improve now that he’s not going to be asked to attack deep nearly as much (his average depth of target was 12.8 yards last season, first in the country).

He was “the guy” at Wake Forest for several years. He got the starters reps and the receivers all had to get used to him. He’ll have to get used to new receivers as well as a new scheme and earn his spot. His success at Wake suggests he’s going to win the starting job and be a very good player for the Irish.

Buchner can make the decision a difficult one if he continues to improve. We’ve seen him succeed as a dual-threat. We finally got to see him make some of the throws with pressure in his face that not many quarterbacks in the country can make.

For him it will be about making the unspectacular plays. His accuracy is a much greater concern and he’ll need to be much better in that department if he’s going to challenge for the job.

On only 71 pass attempts that didn’t involve a screen pass, his completion percentage was 49.3%. He was fantastic off of play-action (66.7% completions and 13.6 yards per attempt), but again was under 50% completions as a passer without play-action attached to it. Those numbers would suggest he has no shot to beat out Hartman if they don’t improve significantly.

Yet, with all of that going against him, Buchner would have had the fourth best PFF grade when passing under pressure out of Power 5 quarterbacks if he qualified with enough drop backs. He is capable of making special plays because of his ability to change arm angles and he has the mental and physical toughness necessary to succeed at the position.

Steve Angeli won’t be viewed as someone in the mix to beat out Hartman or Buchner. For him it will be using that first year on campus and creating some separation between himself and early enrollee Kenny Minchey.

Each day has to be a competition for both of them because even if it’s unlikely for them to play in 2023, everything they do now is part of the battle to start in 2024. Reps are going to be difficult to come by for these two in the spring so every single one matters if one of them wants to make a move to challenge for the backup role this season and set themselves up for the future.

This is the strongest position Notre Dame has been in at quarterback since Tommy Rees took over at coordinator in 2020. He’ll have to manage the entire group while integrating Hartman into the Irish offense, but as long as he takes care of that, he should have the best situation at quarterback he’s had as a play-caller.

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