Many Notre Dame football fans hope that San Diego high school star Tyler Buchner is the savior that will finally lead the Irish to an elusive 12th National Championship.
Writer’s note: Over the next few weeks, I will review the 2021 Notre Dame football recruiting class and all of its commitments – giving a detailed breakdown of each Irish pledge.
Tyler Buchner is the most hyped quarterback prospect (and perhaps recruit) since Jimmy Clausen committed to play for the Irish in the spring of 2006. Fans view Buchner as the quarterback who will finally bring Notre Dame to the promised land. When arrives on campus in early 2021, he plans to immediately battle for the starting spot that Ian Book will vacate following the 2020 campaign.
According to the 247Sports Composite, Tyler Buchner ranks as the 28th recruit and 3rd quarterback in the 2021 class. He is rated as a 5-star recruit. The 247Sports Composite is an aggregate of all major recruiting services. Individually, Buchner ranks as high as 39th (ESPN) and as low as 47th (247Sports).
Buchner exploded for over 6000 yards in his Junior season – 4474 passing and 1610 rushing. He scored 53 touchdowns and 28 touchdowns via the air and ground respectively. On film, he flashes all the tools wanted from a modern quarterback: ability to throw from the pocket, throw on the run, and the ability execute designed runs and make off-schedule plays. His film is a lengthy highlight demonstrating all of these excellent attributes.
The only knock on Buchner’s junior season was the competition. His school, the Bishop’s School in La Jolla, California plays at the Division II level. To put things into perspective, his high school team had only 32 players on the team and 23 that played varsity.
In order to facilitate early enrollment and improve as a quarterback, Buchner decided to transfer to Helix High School. Helix is the same high school as former USC running back Reggie Bush and NFL quarterback Alex Smith. This step up in competition should give an indication of whether Buchner is the real deal.
Witnessing Buchner run circles around the competition is impressive. However, recognizing the competition, doubt creeps in as to whether Buchner is the quarterback he is billed as.
High profile quarterback prospects do not always pan out at Notre Dame. Starting with Ron Powlus and continuing through Brandon Wimbush, the highly rated recruits are generally beaten out by their less acclaimed counterparts with a few exceptions.
Brady Quinn, rated the 5th best pro-style quarterback in his class, forged in an excellent career in South Bend. Quinn holds almost all of Notre Dame’s passing records. But, Quinn is more of an exception rather than a rule.
For every Quinn, there are several high profile busts. Under Brian Kelly, 3-star Quarterback and current Notre Dame Offensive Coordinator Tommy Rees beat out 5-star Quarterback Dayne Crist. In similar fashion, Rees ended up defaulting to starter after 2012 signal-caller Everett Golson was expelled and 5-star Quarterback Gunner Kiel departed for Cincinnati. Most recently, 3-star prospect Ian Book surpassed high 4-star recruit Brandon Wimbush.
Sandwiched in between those Quarterback battles were Malik Zaire and DeShone Kizer. Kizer experienced decent success at Notre Dame, ending up drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the second round. Zaire, of course, dazzled in his debut before suffering a season ending injury in the next game.
Was Jimmy Clausen a bust? In terms of the number of games that he won (an average of 5.3 per season), he definitely was a bust. During his Junior season, Clausen compiled the type of stats expected from a 5-star quarterback: 68% completion, 3722 yards, 28 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions.
Notre Dame’s Quarterback history is storied with four Heisman Trophy winners and nine first round picks. Its recent history of recruiting busts has no bearing on whether or not Buchner will be successful at the college level. It may give guidance into his fate or it may simply demonstrate how difficult it is to play Quarterback in the shadow of the Golden Dome.
As soon as Buchner steps foot on campus, pressure on him will begin to mount as the hype increases. The 2021 Blue-Gold game (assuming fans are allowed without social distancing guidelines) may bring record attendance due to his participation. How he handles the attention will strongly determine how successful he becomes as a Notre Dame quarterback.
Many of the Quarterbacks listed above all possessed elite physical tools but were unable to convert that into production. Buchner needs the work ethic and mental fortitude to differentiate himself.
For Notre Dame fans, they hope Buchner is that type of player.