On Saturday, Notre Dame Head Coach Marcus Freeman took to the podium to talk about the upcoming Gator Bowl against the South Carolina Gamecocks, and the many moving parts within the program during their preparation. Without question, the quarterback situation is the most pressing issue at hand.
With the departure of Drew Pyne, Notre Dame lost a starter at quarterback who went 8-2 during his 10 starts, and looked really good in Notre Dame’s loss to USC in the regular season finale. The transfer portal quarterback that everyone wants, and the one that Pyne walked away from at Notre Dame — well he isn’t walking through that door for the bowl game.
Notre Dame’s options for the bowl game are Steve Angeli who has yet to throw a pass in 2022, and Tyler Buchner who has yet to throw for a touchdown in 2022 and went down for the season one and a half games into the season.
So what’s Coach Freeman have to say about it? Who’s the starter in the bowl game? Well... that still isn’t clear.
“We haven’t defined what exactly the quarterback situation will be. Both guys have gotten reps with the ones. Between Steve (Angeli) and Tyler (Buchner), both have had reps with the ones. Tyler’s practiced the majority of all the practices. And so, we’ll really sit down probably next week and just say, ‘Hey, what’s the plan,’ as we really start focusing on South Carolina.”
“But right now, I want all those guys getting reps and rolling and continue. You know, Tyler hasn’t played football for a long time and so just getting him in there with a bunch of different groups of receivers and O-Linemen and let him get acclimated. But he’s looked good. He’s done a good job in practice. Steve has done a pretty good job, too.”
There really isn’t much to read between the lines there. It’s actually quite amazing that Buchner is even ready to go considering his injury, and given his experience, I have a hard time believing that it WON’T be Tyler behind center if he’s fully healthy for bowl prep.
Notre Dame’s offense had to make a change in how it was going to operate when Buchner went down, and in doing so, they found an identity for the offense. It wasn’t some type of revelation out there that was scoring 42 points a game — but it was playing winning football with the rushing attack and with a refined passing game. It’s something for the bowl game that Notre Dame can continue to use.
“We all have to get better at decision making. We all have to get better at taking care of the football, putting the football in places that are precise in terms of where they need to be. But look, where we are now as a team versus where we were those first two games, I think, has evolved. What we asked Tyler to do that first game in terms of how much we asked him to run, it was a part of the plan versus a defense like Ohio State that, hey, we wanted to run the quarterback a little bit more than usual.”
“You know, that’s probably not what we would have wanted to do all season long. But you know, continue to develop. Again, he hasn’t played football in a while. And so, for him to get back out there, run around and throw the ball, it’s been good to see. But I think our offense is at a different point than where we were at those two games.”
“We have an identity and the ability to run the ball and the ability to create as we say easy completions. And that won’t change with whoever is at quarterback. You know, that’s our identity. We have to be able to run the ball. And we have to be able to take advantage of the things that defenses are giving us in the passing game. And those are big things we asked Tyler to do.”
One thing is for sure as the Irish prepare for South Carolina — the quarterback is off-limits. It makes sense as that’s usually how it goes for the position in this day and age, but even more so given the situation the Irish are in at quarterback.
It probably won’t happen. You can’t take a chance of your quarterbacks getting hit in practice. Not at this point in the season. There wasn’t one point I lived up the quarterbacks in fall camp. You just can’t take that chance of getting your quarterbacks hit and hurt in practice.
And I know he hasn’t taken live reps and you get bumped enough when you’re in a red jersey. But sometimes they run that ball or those D-Lineman, they might get yelled at for touching the quarterback. But you’re going to get bumped enough. But we’re not going to live them up. There’s no way.
Other Quick Hitters
Freeman expects Notre Dame’s current roster to be Notre Dame’s roster for the bowl game with no more opt-outs or transfer portal entries.
“No. That was what last week was for. After the USC game, we had those conversations. We gave them time to really reflect and make decisions. And we told them by this past week, we wanted to make sure that our guys had made decisions on opting out or going into transfer portal. So again, I can’t predict the future. But I don’t anticipate anybody else not playing in the bowl game or going into the portal right now.”
Defensive Back TaRiq Bracy and wide receiver Tobia Merriweather are back.
“Yeah, both of them practiced today, had plenty of time to recover. Both of them are good to go.”