Tyler Buchner will showcase his talents in a competitive setting this week for one of the first times since completing his historic 2019 campaign.
How the four-star Notre Dame commit performs at the Elite 11 Finals may show the progress he’s made during this eventful offseason. Standing out among the 20 partaking in the prestigious quarterback competition in Nashville, Tenn., could also indicate what the future holds for the Irish. The event runs from Monday to Wednesday.
Buchner received more attention once backup quarterback Phil Jurkovec transferred to Boston College this offseason. With Ian Book’s eligibility expiring following this season, Buchner will presumably compete with then-junior Brendon Clark and then-sophomore Drew Pyne for the starting job as a true freshman in 2021.
The decisions Buchner made this offseason may help prepare him for that opportunity. He transferred from La Jolla (Calif.) The Bishop’s School to Helix High, a charter school in La Mesa, Calif. He started working more with 3DQB, a California agency focused on training quarterbacks. He will enroll a semester early in January.
“I definitely want to go in and be the best version of me as I can and be most prepared so that if the team needs me, I’m ready,” said the 6-foot-2, 212-pound Buchner about year one at Notre Dame.
Finishing No. 3 all-time among high school players nationally in total yards (6,084) and yards per game (468) in a season, Buchner’s success as a junior may have come with an asterisk of sorts. Recruiting sites knock Buchner for facing the weakest competition among Notre Dame’s 11 verbal commits.
247Sports ranks Buchner as its No. 3 dual-threat quarterback and No. 43 overall player in the 2021 recruiting class, while Rivals pegs him No. 2 at the position and No. 46 overall. The Bishop’s School also afforded Buchner just 18 other teammates, several of whom played on both sides of the ball.
Graduating from the California Interscholastic Federation Division II to CIF Division I-AA will mean tougher competition. Helix will also provide Buchner with more weapons. The Highlanders have produced several top recruits over the years, including quarterback Alex Smith and running back Reggie Bush.
Helix offensive guard Josh Simmons, wide receiver Clay Petry (also transferred from The Bishop’s School), cornerback Jaiden Brown and linebacker Jerry Riggins are three-star recruits in the 2021 class who hold Division I scholarship offers.
Academics also played a major role in Buchner’s decision. Buchner could have graduated a semester early from The Bishop’s School, but he said they didn’t offer the college-credit courses he wanted. By attending Helix, Buchner may now earn college credit that could help him graduate from Notre Dame earlier than expected.
“We pretty much looked at every school in the country,” Buchner said. “I wanted to take (Advanced Placement) classes my senior year to get some college credits out of the way. But I couldn’t because most schools’ AP classes are one-year long and you can’t get credit because you can’t take the test when you’re gone.”
The Bishop School empowered Buchner to call and audible plays in an aggressive spread offense. Helix brings a pistol offense that likely won’t grant Buchner with as many play-calling liberties. A talented offensive line and running back may help ease his load.
Compared to the spread, the pistol aligns the quarterback closer to the line of scrimmage and in front of the running back instead of beside him. Buchner said both offenses are similar and Helix will emphasize the run-pass option.
“I’ve been used to having one offensive coordinator for three years,” Buchner said, “so it will be different having that. The biggest difference for me will just be the nomenclature, learning the names of the plays. It’s a lot of the same concepts and schemes. There’s just different names for it.”
The focus for Buchner this offseason looked much different than 2019. Half of last offseason required Buchner to recover from a torn ACL in his left knee. Buchner then needed to prepare for his first full season as a varsity starter. He suffered the injury four plays into his sophomore season after being a backup as a freshman.
Danny Hernandez, a private quarterback coach for QB Collective, primarily trained Buchner last offseason and looked to improve his specialty: off-balanced throws. Buchner also worked on strengthening his lower body following the injury.
Now Buchner works with 3DQB throwing motion performance expert Taylor Kelly, a three-year starting quarterback for Arizona State (2012-14) while former Irish offensive coordinator Chip Long coached tight ends for the Sun Devils. Buchner said the pandemic hardly curtailed his training regimen these past few months.
“The focus has more shifted toward consistency where I’m throwing,” Buchner said. “I can make most of the throws that I need to make. It’s just a matter of doing them every single time. So that way in a game when it’s fourth-and-10, I can make that throw that’s not an easy throw. But I can make it 10 out of 10 times instead of nine out of 10 times. That one out of 10 times might be a difference maker.”
Being named to the Elite 11 will be the first step to Buchner proving himself against elevated competition.
“Hopefully the speed of the game is a little faster,” said Buchner about his senior season. “I’ll get to challenge myself more playing against better defenses and having better guys on my team. I’m excited to have a little bit of a step up, but it won’t be anywhere near the step up it will be going to Notre Dame.”