Quarterback Tyler Buchner, a 2021 recruit, commits to Notre Dame
Last month's trip to Notre Dame confirmed Tyler Buchner’s hunch.
The 2021 quarterback dissected film alongside Irish offensive coordinator Chip Long and quarterbacks coach Tommy Rees. By demonstrating how Buchner translated into ND’s offense, the Irish staff verified his intuition.
The 6-foot-2, 203-pounder from The Bishop's School in La Jolla, Calif., returned the favor on Friday, announcing his verbal commitment to the Irish via Twitter. He becomes ND’s first committed recruit for its 2021 class.
“Their offense is super-aggressive, and I think it’s the perfect fit,” Buchner told the Tribune following his Feb. 23 visit. “It’s similar to what I run at my high school. It’s just an extension of that. Perfect fit … They have compared my game to Ian Book, which is kind of generous. I mean, I guess I’m all right. But I can definitely see myself playing that scheme.”
In the Brian Kelly Era, no quarterback has committed to the Irish earlier in the recruiting process. Quarterbacks Phil Jurkovec (2018 class), Cade McNamara (2019 class) and Drew Pyne (2020 class) are the only other gunslingers to commit to ND before their junior seasons.
Perhaps Buchner’s biggest Irish influence came via Bishop's School alum Shane Walton. The former Notre Dame All-America cornerback (2002) serves as The Bishop’s School’s defensive coordinator and assistant athletic director. How do the Knight and Irish offenses compare?
“It’s the exact same offense,” Walton said. “Tyler has the keys. Coach might call a play, but Tyler can change the play to 15 or 20 different things based on what the defense is giving us. He always puts us in the right call. It’s impressive. He knows the game so well."
An impressive freshman campaign and offseason camps helped Buchner become a four-star recruit per 247Sports. He ranks as the site’s No. 2 pro-style quarterback and No. 49 overall player. On the first series of Buchner’s sophomore season, though, he tore the ACL in his left knee.
Tom Lemming, a recruiting analyst for CBS Sports Network, saw enough of Buchner to consider him as a player with five-star potential.
“I saw a terrific ballplayer with coolness under pressure,” Lemming said. “He has the arm strength. He seemed like a 16-year-old going on 30. He’s not a guy who can run a 4.5 (40-yard dash), but he’s one that can run you out of trouble. He’s good throwing the ball on the run.
“He’s effective with his reads, going through his progressions well first. Then when he decides that no one is open, he can buy time and extend the play because of his foot speed and ability to avoid the rush.”
Before suffering the injury, Buchner emerged as one of the elite quarterbacks in his class. He accrued offers from Michigan, Alabama, USC, Georgia and Oregon. The Trojans even sent a coach to watch Buchner practice last summer.
The USC coach lasted one throw before leaving.
“He said, ‘I’ve seen enough. I don’t need to see anymore,’ ” Walton said.
USC offered Buchner a scholarship on May 29. He then attended ND’s Elite Skills Camp in June and landed an Irish offer. Buchner attended ND’s Sept. 29 home game against Stanford. When Buchner returned to South Bend last month, the Irish staff replayed the 38-17 Irish victory over the Cardinal on televisions throughout their facilities.
ND quarterbacks Ian Book and Phil Jurkovec also spent time with Buchner on his last visit. The three joined ND linebacker Jordan Genmark Heath — from nearby San Diego — Rees, his father and ND director of scouting, Bill Rees, at Rocco’s Restaurant, a local pizza eatery.
"Like Ian Book, he finds the right guy," said Walton of Buchner, who also wears No. 12. "The easiest pass is the right pass, and that’s what Ian Book does. And the same thing happens with Tyler. What I will say is the difference is I think Tyler is a little bit bigger in stature. I think his arm is a little bit better than Ian’s.
"Obviously, it’s a different game. Ian is in college. But I think with Tyler, just the way he throws the ball is just a different ball. It’s effortless. The way he throws the ball is just different.”
The Irish threw all they had at Buchner, who stands as one of ND’s two 2021 quarterback targets. The other, Dallas product Preston Stone, has not visited South Bend. Other top 2021 quarterback prospects, like Midwest recruit J.J. McCarthy, never garnered an offer because of ND’s interest in Buchner.
Buchner will continue physical therapy for the next couple months, he said. He’s eyeing May 11 for his return to competition through Oakland’s regional Elite 11 quarterback camp.
“School starts at 8:30 a.m. I got there at 7:30 the other day, and he had just finished working out,” Walton said. “That’s who he is. He loves football. When he hurt his knee, I was the first person out there.
"He knew he hurt it bad, but it wasn’t about him. He said, ‘I just want to play football with my teammates.’ That’s what he said. It’s not about him. It’s about his team.
“I’ve never seen a guy be great at everything. He’s great at his touch passes. He’s great at the deep ball. He’s great at finding the open guy. He’s great at getting the offense into the right play. He’s great at running. He can run over you. He can run by you. He can juke you.
"He’s the best at all of it.”
Tyler Buchner, a class of '21 QB out of Cali, commits to #NotreDame. This is the earliest in the recruiting process a QB has verbally pledged to the Irish under Brian Kelly. https://t.co/ERMfWBA7RM
— Carter Karels (@CarterKarels) March 8, 2019