Film Study: Notre Dame freshman QB Drew Pyne

Carter Karels
South Bend Tribune

QB Drew Pyne, 6-1, 195; New Canaan (Conn.) High

The numbers: Pyne went 161-of-252 passing for 2,107 yards and 24 touchdowns with seven interceptions in 11 games as a senior. He added 259 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on 57 carries. The Rams (9-2) ended their season with a 42-0 loss to Trumbull (Conn.) St. Joseph in the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference Class L semifinals. Pyne missed that game with a throwing shoulder injury. He enrolled a semester early at Notre Dame.

The rankings: 247Sports — Three stars, No. 18 pro-style quarterback, No. 738 overall. Rivals — Four stars, No. 7 pro-style quarterback, No. 117 overall.


Film link here.

First impression: The comparisons between Ian Book and Pyne are valid in certain respects. Both quarterbacks throw with a quick release, show solid accuracy on short and intermediate passes and extend plays with their suddenness in the pocket. Those attributes fit the mold of what Notre Dame prioritizes when scouring the nation for quarterbacks. Pyne’s physical shortcomings may hinder him from ever reaching Book’s prowess, however. The senior tapes of both quarterbacks and Pyne's week at the Elite 11 Finals last July were considered for this film study. 

Strengths: The ball does not stay in Pyne’s hand long. An expert in the short passing game, Pyne operates quickly and shows confidence. Rarely does Pyne lock onto one receiver or miss on a short or intermediate throw. He’s a balanced distributor. With his advanced understanding of the offense, Pyne moves through his progressions well and tricks defenses with his eyes and pump-fakes. The combination of Pyne’s superior pocket presence and quick feet makes him creative in extending plays. He feels and anticipates pressure. When the pocket collapses or Pyne scrambles, he keeps his eyes downfield. Pyne fits the description of a gamer, elevating his competition as the stakes increase. He exceeded expectations at the Elite 11 Finals and Under Armour All-America Game and won a state championship as a freshman.

Proof of prowess: (1:30) Pyne’s slight increase in arm strength as a senior can be seen on this completion. In the past, wide receivers often needed to hesitate or slow down on Pyne’s deeper passes. Despite not appearing to exert all of his energy on this throw, Pyne hit the receiver in stride on a deep out from the opposite hash. He first detected the mismatch and anticipated his throw well by releasing the ball as the receiver started to cut outward. Even with tighter coverage, Pyne would have completed this pass. He will need to make these type of throws in college to keep defenses honest. 

(1:35) As an unblocked linebacker and defensive end converge on Pyne, he moves to his left and uses a crafty sidestep to evade contact. Pyne’s short-area quickness frees him to extend passing plays as a scrambler or run for a first down. In this instance, Pyne accomplishes the latter by using every bit of his 4.7 40-yard dash speed. Pyne won’t run for 100 yards in a game, but he brings some dual-threat ability.

(2:10; 4:52) These two improvised plays demonstrate Pyne’s keen sense of his surroundings and ability to keep his eyes downfield and make instant decisions when under duress. Play No. 1 begins with Pyne looking to the three receivers to his left, but pressure comes from his right before they can create separation. Instead of eluding the defensive end by simply moving the opposite direction, Pyne glided up the pocket before running to the right and delivering a strike to the sideline. The second play required more from Pyne but produced a similar result. He evaded two defensive linemen by sliding into the pocket and anticipated his receiver streaking toward the middle. Havoc and broken plays hardly seem to deter Pyne.

Competition level: New Canaan faced below average competition on a national scale. The Rams play in the CIAC Class L, Connecticut’s second-largest division. Only one defensive player that squared off against Pyne last season, Wilton High’s Matt Gulbin, currently holds a three-star rating or higher on 247Sports or Rivals. Gulbin, a junior, lined up as a two-way lineman but is being recruited on offense.

Pyne had little to work with after his junior season. New Canaan possessed maybe the state’s best offensive line two years ago, featuring offensive tackles bound for Power Five football in Jack Stewart (Michigan) and Jack Conley (Boston College). Pyne posted underwhelming numbers as a senior and struggled against the top three teams he faced: Ridgefield, St. Joseph and Darien.

Ridgefield, No. 15 in Connecticut per MaxPreps, recorded three interceptions against Pyne in a 17-14 victory. Pyne finished 14-of-27 for 125 yards and two interceptions in a 58-14 blowout loss to top-ranked St. Joseph, the eventual Class L champion. New Canaan claimed a 20-0 victory over Darien, No. 2 in Class LL and No. 5 in the state. Pyne did enough in the win, completing 8-of-10 passes for 66 yards and a touchdown with an interception while adding 11 rushes for 42 yards and a touchdown.

Left to prove: The similarities between Book and Pyne are apparent, but so are the differences. Book’s occasional struggles last season seemed to stem from mental blips. Meanwhile, Pyne’s future shortcomings will likely be a result of his physical limitations. Pocket presence, eye discipline and anticipation are a few mental aspects that Pyne handles well. Those have been areas of concern for Book at Notre Dame. While Book’s size and arm strength are good enough for him to perform well in college, those are two critical flaws for Pyne that lowers his potential. He may also have a tough time substantially improving those physical traits. For those reasons, 247Sports’ ranking of Pyne seems much closer to reality.

Winning the backup job this offseason will be challenging for Pyne. Brendon Clark, Notre Dame’s Scout Team Player of the Year in 2019, has known the system longer and looks more physically ready at 6-2, 217. Pyne will likely need to learn the offense and dedicate himself to the weight room before earning a legitimate opportunity, though he has defied the odds before.

Notre Dame quarterback signee Drew Pyne (right).