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That's the question that has invaded and pervaded the minds of Notre Dame football fans ever since Buchner, a true freshman quarterback, lit a charge through his Fighting Irish teammates in last Saturday's 32-29 victory over Toledo.
In the end, it was Coan, a graduate transfer from Wisconsin, who got the ball in the final two minutes and tossed the touchdown pass that won Notre Dame the game. So, head coach Brian Kelly's answer to the polarizing query: Coan.
In most situations, that is.
So where does that leave sophomore Drew Pyne, who would have likely battled Buchner for the starting quarterback job over the offseason had Coan not joined the program in January?
Based on being in offensive coordinator Tommy Rees’ system for much longer than Buchner, Pyne would have probably been the presumptive favorite, too. It was believed to be Pyne, after all, who pushed Coan for the starting slot all offseason and into fall camp.
But when Notre Dame needed to score quickly at the tail end of last week's game, Pyne didn't even factor into the equation. He hadn't played a single snap. But if he needed to, Kelly said he could.
“We think Drew is extremely capable of leading that drive as well,” Kelly said anyway. “And he has. In our two-minute (drill) on Wednesdays, he'll go in and run with the first group.”
Notre Dame's depth chart still lists Pyne as the second-stringer. Kelly was asked directly if Pyne would be the starter in the event that Coan were lost for a longterm period of time.
“They're all very capable of running our offense," he said. "I think circumstances really dictate how you would move in that direction, but I don't know that there's one second of hesitation between [Rees] and I on what Drew is capable of doing and how he can run our offense.”
Take time to analyze Buchner's role in the Toledo game. He came in early in the second quarter to provide a spark in the running game, and that's exactly what he did. He completed one pass on his first drive. He completed two thereafter.
Ironically, that's as many pass attempts as Pyne has in his career too. He completed two of them. The tape to prove which of the two would better position Notre Dame to win games if Coan was not able to play does not exist.
That tape could increase dramatically in the coming weeks for Buchner, though.
"I think the plan all along was to get Tyler some work," Kelly said. "That was going to enhance our running game as we transition a little bit there. So, I can't disagree that he helps our running game."
Buchner surely gave Notre Dame something it needed against Toledo. But what could Buchner provide when asked to get behind center for the duration of a four-quarter game? The jury is still out in that regard, just as it is with Pyne.
Three completed passes — one of which was a layup to wide-open sophomore running back Chris Tyree — isn't enough to justify Buchner being the No. 2 quarterback, or even the 1B to Coan's 1A. Two completed passes from a year ago doesn't do the job either.
Pyne's situation sure is interesting. He went from potentially being the Irish's starting quarterback to what appears like the third option even if Kelly won't publicly say so. And the more Buchner shines as a complementary piece of the Notre Dame offensive puzzle, the further Pyne will fall in the overall hierarchy — even if he has not done anything wrong to warrant such a slide.
The reality of the situation is that as things stand, Kelly and Rees are conducting a balancing act between Buchner and Coan — not Coan and Pyne. That says everything about where Pyne currently stands in the quarterback room.
When all three are healthy, it's Coan and Buchner who will play off each other based on their skill sets. Pyne doesn't provide as much of a game-changing presence as Buchner.
"Ultimately, I'm going to put the quarterback in the game," Kelly said. "But Tommy and I are on the same page. If he had a serious objection based upon what he had in his mind, then I would go with him. But we were on the same page when we were backed up. We were looking for Tyler to go in at that time. I would say it was pretty much a consensus."
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Read full article at ESPN
14 September, 2021 - 06:00am
How Jack Coan and Tyler Buchner both fit in Notre Dame's best-case offense right now: Fighting Irish final thoughts
13 September, 2021 - 11:16am
How Jack Coan and Tyler Buchner both fit in Notre Dame’s best-case offense right now: Fighting Irish final thoughts