When the Notre Dame Fighting Irish added quarterback Ron Powlus III to its 2021 recruiting class on National Signing Day, it took a minute to digest. This wasn’t a preferred walk-on situation — this was an actual scholarship signing for the 72nd ranked pro-style quarterback in the country. This, of course, was in addition to signing the 70th ranked overall player — quarterback Tyler Buchner.
While it caught many fans and media members off guard, the reasoning for adding Powlus to the 2021 class is sound from a roster standpoint in 2021 and beyond. There are concerns about Brendon Clark’s ability to recover from knee surgery, which meant only Drew Pyne and freshman Buchner were going to be on the roster before they finally added transfer Jack Coan. Able bodies were absolutely needed, and in Powlus, the route to sign him was there as a legacy and hometown player.
It’s not 2021, however, where Powlus’s value will be used by Notre Dame. With Coan, Pyne, and Buchner (assuming Clark is out of commission for the year) the Irish are in decent shape going into the season. Even if Coan is injured, the thinking is that there’s enough there to help the Irish win football games.
But what about 2022?
This is where things get a little trickier, and where things start to make a little more sense as Jack Coan departs from his one year of servitude. Most of us expect Tyler Buchner to become the starting quarterback for the Irish in 2022 as a sophomore, and that appears to be the plan for Notre Dame as well. But who’s behind him?
The concern about Brendon Clark right now is very real, and that concern extends into the question of him playing again for Notre Dame. I don’t know all of the specifics with Clark, but I’ve heard enough to have a few worries. Next up, I suppose, would be Drew Pyne. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Pyne decided to transfer after the 2021 season if he feels that he’s stuck behind Buchner for the rest of his career.
Essentially, that leaves us with Buchner, Powlus, and freshman Steve Angeli for 2022 if there is no Pyne and Clark. Even if there is Clark — we’re still talking about a guy with minimal experience and coming off of a serious injury that kept him out for a year. Ron Powlus III is a built-in safety valve. As an early enrollee this year, Powlus will have enough practice time under his belt to at least know the offense and run it as well. While I think Angeli may be underrated right now, that doesn’t mean he would be a better option after Buchner over Powlus.
Quarterback rooms are fickle and change dramatically from year to year. With Powlus, Notre Dame has a kid that can be of great value as the guy behind the guy. Games have been saved that way — seasons have been saved that way. Whether or not any of this is even needed in 2022 still remains to be seen, but at least the blueprint of a plan is there rather than the moment when you throw out Andrew Hendrix against USC or Pat Dillingham against Boston College.