QB Tyler Buchner, 6-2, 212; La Jolla (Calif.) The Bishop’s School
The numbers: Buchner went 267-of-402 passing for 4,474 yards and 53 touchdowns with six interceptions in 13 games as a junior. He added 1,610 rushing yards and 28 scores on 128 carries. His total yards (6,084) and yards per game (468) in that single season both rank No. 3 all-time among high school players nationally. Buchner’s 760 total yards against Chula Vista (Calif.) Mater Dei came one yard short of the California high school football record held by Jorge Amaya of Los Angeles Hawkins.
The Knights (12-1) ended their season with a 75-59 loss to El Camino in California Interscholastic Federation San Diego section Division II championship. The Elite 11 Finals, the nation’s most renowned quarterback recruiting competition, invited Buchner over the weekend. The event takes place in Dallas in July.
The rankings: 247Sports — Four stars, No. 3 dual-threat quarterback, No. 50 overall. Rivals — Four stars, No. 2 dual-threat quarterback, No. 43 overall.
First impression: Opportunity awaits for Buchner in 2021 with Ian Book entering his final season this year. Buchner brings the tools and recruiting pedigree to become Notre Dame’s first true freshman starting quarterback since Tommy Rees in 2010. He boasts one of the more unusual skill sets among quarterbacks to play under head coach Brian Kelly. Quarterbacks Brendon Clark and Drew Pyne should face serious competition in Buchner.
Strengths: How Buchner moves and his off-kilter style make him different. Buchner’s lateral quickness derived from playing lacrosse at a high level translates to football well. He’s effective as a downhill runner, moves in and out of the pocket well and evades defenders in space with sudden movements. Buchner flourishes as an improviser. Off-platform throws that come from awkward ankles or without balance play a major part in Buchner’s game because of his impressive lower-body torque, arm strength, suddenness and creativity.
Throws beyond 20 yards and to the wider side of the field are no problem for Buchner. He looks to have a stronger arm than Book, Clark, Pyne and Phil Jurkovec, now with Boston College. Buchner flashes an advanced understanding of the game and anticipates routes well. He shows toughness as a runner and battled back from a torn ACL in his left knee as a sophomore.
Proof of prowess: (1:08; 6:50; 8:50) These three plays illustrate Buchner’s prowess at throwing from awkward angles and release points when necessary. Buchner did not employ a full windup in his throwing motion in play No. 1. He cocked the ball maybe 75-percent back than he normally would and released it from a slightly different angle. The shortened motion resulted in Buchner avoiding the rusher while making the completion just before the defensive back converged on his intended receiver. Plays No. 2 and 3 feature different variations of Buchner’s side-arm ability. Buchner added more of a twist action in play No. 2 so his receiver would make the catch in stride after he squeezed the ball through a tight window. He used a regular side-arm throw in play No. 3 to push the ball underneath the rushing defender’s arms.
(3:47; 8:23; 9:37; Twitter video) Buchner’s 4.65 40-yard dash speed only scratches the surface of his running abilities. Look at his sudden movements on his way to the end zone in both 3:47 and 8:23. He scooted side to side to evade multiple defenders. Buchner tends to avoid defenders in open space by faking a certain way with one foot and cutting the opposite direction with the other. He also breaks arm tackles with his downhill style. Buchner’s not afraid to embrace contact and run defenders over with attitude like in plays No. 3 and 4.
Competition level: The Bishop’s School faces lackluster competition on a national scale. Only two players who squared off against the Knights last season garnered at least a two-star rating on Rivals: Chula Vista Mater Dei quarterback Trevor Appelman and two-way athlete Vance Jefferson from Poway High. They are also the only two recruits with a three-star rating or higher on 247Sports.
The weaker competition inflates Buchner’s numbers but shouldn’t call his recruiting pedigree into question. He’s not exactly throwing to open receivers with a clean pocket on every play. The Knights were one of the smallest teams in San Diego with 19 players on their roster last season. Just look at 3:04 and 3:17 to see Buchner’s proficient abilities. Buchner’s lateral quickness in the pocket, arm strength and ball placement on those throws were special. Not many high school quarterbacks could pull off those plays, even against that level of competition.
Buchner’s lone poor performance came in the season opener against La Jolla. In that game, Buchner’s first off his ACL injury, he sported a knee brace. The Bishop’s School’s coaching staff limited his running ability. He went 18-of-32 for 212 yards with two interceptions and turned 13 carries into 77 yards and a touchdown in the 18-7 victory. Low moments were rare for Buchner in the 12 games that followed as the Knights averaged 57.6 points during that span. Two of his best games were against the three biggest schools he faced: Mater Dei, Poway and El Camino.
Left to prove: How well will Buchner’s style translate to college? 247Sports national recruiting analyst Greg Biggins compares Buchner to former USC and current New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold, another SoCal product who makes high-risk, high-reward decisions. For Buchner to develop into the elite quarterback he's capable of becoming, he will need to master his style by limiting risks and improving his consistency. He won’t get away with throwing across his body and without balance in college as much.
Buchner’s mechanics may also need retooling. Former college stars Tua Tagavailoa (Alabama) and Tim Tebow (Florida), the latter of whom to a lesser degree, are quarterbacks that come to mind when comparing Buchner’s throwing motion. Buchner uses a longer action and keeps his elbow low. He still flashes a quick release and the ball jumps out of his hand, so whether Buchner's motion requires amending remains to be seen. How Buchner shifts his weight during throws looks to be the bigger concern. His footwork needs work.
That Buchner embraces contact shows he possesses the toughness required to play quarterback at a high level. However, Buchner must shake his tendency to lower his shoulder for extra yards if he wants to remain healthy. The speed of college will be an adjustment for Buchner, particularly if he starts as a true freshman. He's only started 13 full high school games. More game reps should help Buchner improve his consistency.