Quarterback Tyler Buchner Taking Gradual Notre Dame Path
Following this Saturday’s practice (April 3), Wisconsin graduate transfer Jack Coan and rising sophomore Drew Pyne will be made available to the media.
The duo will be vying to succeed the graduated Ian Book as the opening-game starter at Florida State Sept. 5.
Head coach Brian Kelly made it clear following the opening practice March 27 that there is a demarcation at the position between Coan and Pyne from early entrants Tyler Buchner and Ron Powlus III. A fifth signal-caller, rising junior Brendon Clark, had knee surgery prior to the College Football Playoff that will limit him in the spring.
Although the 6-1, 207-pound Buchner arrived as the nation’s No. 111 prospect, he had no high school senior year in his native California because of COVID-19 protocols in the state.
“Tyler Buchner just got here and he hasn’t played football for a year, so you’ve got to understand there’s some development that has to take place there,” Kelly summarized … He doesn’t know our offense and just the basics is really what he’s trying to feel good about today. He’s got obviously some work to do from that perspective, but he’s a quick study and a really good athlete.”
Enrolling early should benefit Buchner over the long term, but the history under Kelly indicates it doesn’t make much difference in one’s freshman year. Other than current offensive coordinator Tommy Rees in 2010, almost every quarterback redshirted as a freshman, if not as a sophomore.
This happened with Andrew Hendrix (2010), Everett Golson (2011), Gunner Kiel (2012), Malik Zaire (2013), DeShone Kizer (2014), Book (2016), Avery Davis (2017), Phil Jurkovec (2018, and now at Boston College), Clark (2019) and Pyne — the first early entrant since Zaire in 2013, but who had only one spring practice prior to the pandemic.
Because of Golson’s transfer in June 2015 and Zaire’s season-ending injury in game 2 that season, Brandon Wimbush was elevated to the No. 2 quarterback role behind Kizer that season and burned a year of eligibility.
However, when Kizer and Zaire both returned in 2016, Wimbush was then red-shirted as a sophomore.
In 1972, the NCAA eliminated freshman ineligibility for good. Freshmen were permitted to play in 1951 during the Korean War, but they were not allowed to compete in the ensuing 20 years on the varsity level until they became sophomores.
It took five years before an Irish freshman quarterback was inserted into a game. That was the No. 3 man Tim Koegel in the latter part of the 1977 national title season, highlighted by a TD pass to classmate Speedy Hart to close out the scoring in a 69-14 romp over Georgia Tech.
Still, freshmen quarterbacks have been called upon in the past. Here's a countdown of the most notable.
5 BEST TRUE FRESHMAN QUARTERBACKS
5. Brady Quinn (2003) & Jimmy Clausen (2007)
The top two passers on the all-time Irish chart, both had rough initiations as freshmen, with Quinn going 4-5 as the starter and Clausen 3-6. They won huge respect the way they were able to keep getting up after taking beatings behind inexperienced lines.
Quinn’s 1,831 yards passing are a freshman record at Notre Dame, but so were his 15 interceptions while completing 47.3 percent of his passes. Clausen’s 1,254 yards passing are No. 2.
4. Blair Kiel (1980)
The stats were not pretty: 38.7 completion percentage, only 531 yards passing, no TDs and five interceptions. But he began 6-0-1 as the starter while helping the Irish to a No. 1 ranking before losing at USC (20-3) and then No. 1 Georgia (17-10) in the Sugar Bowl.
He earned the starting nod over senior Mike Courey after coming through in relief appearance victories against Michigan and Michigan State.
3. Tommy Rees (2010)
Rees made a mark in Kelly’s first season when he over for good in the first quarter of the 2010 Tulsa game when starter Dayne Crist suffered a season-ending injury. Rees threw four interceptions and the Irish lost, 28-27, but he responded with a four-game stretch in which the Irish were 4-0 to finish 8-5.
On Dec. 31, 2010, Rees also became the first freshman QB to start a bowl victory for the Irish, a 33-17 conquest of Miami.
His poise and aplomb in the final four games, all victories, were huge, especially leading TD drives at the end of each half in the 20-16 victory at USC to end a school-record eight-game losing streak to the Trojans.
Rees completed 61 percent of his passes for 1,106 yards, a freshman record 12 TDs and eight interceptions.
2. Steve Beuerlein (1983)
The California native won his first five starts while replacing the senior Kiel (who regained his spot in the finale), highlighted by a 30-6 win at South Carolina.
Beuerlein’s best game was a 34-30 loss at Penn State in which he was 14 of 20 for 257 yards. He became the first Irish freshman to pass for more than 1,000 yards (1,061) while completing 51.7 percent of his tosses.
1. Matt LoVecchio (2000)
The best combination of team success, impressive stats and as a dual threat. During his seven regular season starts the Irish were:
• 7-0 and earned a BCS bid.
• He completed 58.4 percent of his passes with 11 TDs and only one interception.
• His 151.7 pass efficiency ranking would have ranked 7th nationally had he started 75 percent of the games
• Rushed for 300 yards and 4.2 yards per carry.
• The Irish committed eight turnovers during the regular season — the fewest in NCAA history in an 11-game regular season — despite a freshman leading them.
In the Fiesta Bowl, LoVecchio completed only 13 of 33 passes and turned the ball over several times in a 41-9 loss to Oregon State, but his regular season was superb.
He eventually transferred to Indiana University in 2002, after classmate Carlyle Holiday took over as the starter in 2001.
• Kiel, Beuerlein, and Quinn all made their first starts in the fourth game of the season. While LoVecchio’s starting debut was in Game 5. Clausen was the earliest ever to start (Game 2).
• None of the three starting quarterbacks for the Irish on the last three national championship teams saw action as a freshman.
Tom Clements might have started in 1971 to replace the graduated Joe Theismann — but that was the last season of freshman ineligibility.
In 1974, freshman Joe Montana was seventh team overall and even No. 4 on the junior varsity (JV), where in three games he was the starting punter but was only 1 of 6 passing.
Tony Rice had to sit out his freshman season in 1986 because of Proposition 48.
• Two others who started one game as a freshman were Kent Graham (Boston College in 1987) and Paul Failla (1991 versus Purdue).
• Talk about it inside Rockne’s Roundtable.
• Learn more about our print and digital publication, Blue & Gold Illustrated.
• Watch our videos and subscribe to our YouTube channel.
• Sign up for Blue & Gold's news alerts and daily newsletter.
• Subscribe to our podcast on Apple Podcasts.
• Like us on Facebook.