Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman held court for his weekly presser on Monday and delivered the news that many of us had already assumed was true. Irish quarterback Tyler Buchner is out for the year with a shoulder injury that requires surgery, and Drew Pyne now becomes QB1 moving forward.
“I want to start off with addressing Tyler Buchner. He ended up getting a high grade, I think grade five out of six AC sprain in his non throwing shoulder. He’ll end up having surgery Tuesday with Dr. Ratigan and expected recovery time is about four months. So we can all do the math and that probably puts us somewhere mid January. That’s where we’re at with that. Moving forward from that, Drew Pyne will will be our starter. As I said when we address the quarterback competition in fall camp, I have the utmost confidence in both of those guys being able to lead our offense and lead this football team. We are still very positive and optimistic about our future moving forward with Drew Pyne leading our offense. I’m excited for his opportunity and what he’s going to present to our football team.”
Freeman expressed confidence in Pyne as the starter, and doesn’t feel like the the offensive philosophy has to be changed all the way over due to the differences in mobility between Buchner and Pyne.
“You’re thrust into a leadership position when you’re a quarterback and you want people to be able to follow you not just through your actions, but maybe through your words and who you are as a leader. He’s a natural leader, has a lot of the natural QB traits that you’re looking for. I don’t see the offense changing extreme amounts. We’re still going to be able to do some of the QB runs that we did with Tyler and obviously the passing game, we’ll continue to enhance it and figure out ways to be more consistent in it and put him in a situation to hopefully have more completions. Again, I don’t see the offense in terms of the entire patch changing because of of Drew being a quarterback, but I do want to try to look and say, okay, hey, where can we do more for them as an offense?”
“I think the major difference is probably the straight line speed. Tyler Buchner is maybe a 4.5 guy. He can run in a straight line. Drew’s athletic, but he’s not straight line as as fast as Tyler. I think the ability to pull the ball and zone reads to make a team respect you as a quarterback being able to run the ball is something that Drew can do. The passing game obviously isn’t much different. I don’t see much change in that package. But what exact runs are we going to have him do in the run game?”
“I remember that conversation in my office and told him that we made a decision but I’ve never been a part of a program where you haven’t used more than one quarterback. You don’t know when his time is going to go, but I knew it was going to come at some point. Here it is. He’s always prepared like the starter. He’s prepared like a pro. That’s who Drew Pyne is and he went out yesterday and Drew Pyne doesn’t need to be any different than who he’s always been, no matter if he was QB1 or QB2. He was a leader, he came out with great energy, just now he has to continue to put the execution elements to that persona that he has.”
More concerning than the Notre Dame quarterback situation is what the offensive line has done (or not done) during the first two games of the season. The line looks dysfunctional, and changes to the depth chart are a reasonable assumption at this point — but as of right now, the current lineup is the current lineup.
“We look at the entire picture of our offensive line. They’ve made progress from week one to week two, and I’m sure it’ll make progress from week two to week three. We want to expedite that process, but you got to look at the big picture. What’s the best five and that’s something that we looked and we talked about, and we feel very strongly about the five we have out there. Jarrett Patterson played a heck of a game at guard. He played a lot of snaps and did a really good job. But it’s improving. It’s a constant improvement for all of those guys, J-Patt included. For those other guys, again, Zeke Correll hasn’t started a whole bunch of games. You’ve got two sophomores now that were freshmen last year, that played six games and two games. So there is still inexperience but they’re getting better. It’s those details that we have to continue to improve. Your fundamentals. The offensive line position, yeah, it’s about understanding exactly what you’re supposed to do but it’s the true fundamentals about where your hat placement goes, your footwork, that is what we got to get better at and the consistency of doing those fundamentals. I know Hiestand is just pounding them and trying to get them to the point of where they are perfect, but we know that’s a process to get to that point.”
An 0-2 start almost demands changes in the lineup, and Freeman was asked if there were players that should play less moving forward.
“I don’t think we’ve said anybody needs to play less. But you gotta evaluate. If a guy’s not getting the job done, then we got to figure out what do we have to do to make sure he gets the job done or get him off the field. I’m not saying there’s a guy that’s not doing that yet, but there is guys that we have to make sure that they do exactly what they’re coached to do. But no, again, I think we’re playing the right guys. We just got to get them to do exactly what we want. We got to figure out as a coaching staff what exactly can they do.”
Another position group that has not only underperformed but just looks misused by Notre Dame, is at running back. Chris Tyree, for example, is not getting the number of touches that his game-breaking speed might demand.
“We got to try to find ways to get the ball in his hands. With Chris, it’s unique because he played more plays than the other running backs but we use him in so many different positions at wideout, we use him at slot, we use him at running back. He’s a guy that has to be on the field. I think we got to find ways to get the ball in his hands because he’s a playmaker. We’ll find ways to do that. Like you said, I believe he’s a guy that makes plays when the ball is in his hands.”
“I think at some point we will say who is the hot hand, but they all have separate packages. The things you do with Chris Tyree, you aren’t always going to do with Audric. Logan Diggs is also a threat in the pass game and can do some different things. They all have packages and you’ll need them all. The days of using one or two running backs just doesn’t happen. The ability to roll those guys around and you play 80 plays on offense and the ability to have a stable of guys that can come in and get the job done is important. If there is a guy that might have the hot hand, we got to keep him in there.”
Here is Freeman’s full presser. I’ll have more on what was said later on.