Notre Dame QB Tyler Buchner enters transfer portal with Alabama a possible landing spot

Mike Berardino
ND Insider

SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame quarterback Tyler Buchner, still nominally in a battle with Sam Hartman but having been drastically outplayed in the Blue-Gold Game, will enter the transfer portal.

A redshirt sophomore who returned from left (non-throwing) shoulder surgery to win MVP honors in the Gator Bowl, Buchner made the announcement on social media early Tuesday afternoon.

Buchner said the step, which comes in advance of an April 30 deadline to enter the spring transfer portal for undergraduates, was taken “in order to explore my options, and decide what is best for my future.”

Buchner cited discussions with Notre Dame coach Marcus Freeman and said via Twitter that “remaining at Notre Dame is thankfully an option I’m continuing to consider.”

Headed for reunion with Tommy Rees at Alabama?

According to multiple outlets, including Football, Buchner plans to visit Alabama and former Notre Dame offensive coordinator Tommy Rees. Auburn, according to 247 Sports, also is play for Buchner, who has three years of remaining eligibility.

In two years running Rees' system, Buchner appeared in 13 games and went 67 of 118 passing (56.8%) for 949 yards, six touchdowns and eight interceptions. Half of those picks were returned for touchdowns, including two in the 45-38 Gator Bowl win over South Carolina.

Spending the bulk of last season in the coaches’ box with Rees helped Buchner process his reads faster than he had before his injury.

“There’s a really good grasp of the totality of what we’re trying to do offensively,” Rees said on Dec. 11. “Today was one of his strongest practices he’s had in a couple of years here. He was really sharp. He’s been smooth. There hasn’t been a ton of issues in terms of what we’re asking him to do.”

Notre Dame quarterback Tyler Buchner high-steps into the end zone for a late first-quarter touchdown.

Hartman, a graduate transfer from Wake Forest who enrolled in January, went 13 for 16 passing for 179 yards and two touchdowns in the Gold’s 24-0 win on a rainy Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium. Hartman, who turns 24 in late July, added a rushing touchdown in a nearly flawless showing.

Buchner, however, struggled mightily in going 8-for-18 passing for 44 yards and an interception. Buchner, who started three games last season and is more of a running threat than Hartman, also was sacked twice in his first outing with Gerad Parker as offensive coordinator and Gino Guidugli as quarterbacks coach.

Freeman, perhaps with the portal deadline in mind, refused to name, at least publicly, a starting quarterback even after the disparate showings.

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“We still have a quarterback battle,” Freeman said after the Blue-Gold Game. “You can’t determine a winner and loser based off one practice, practice 15. There’s a lot that goes into it: a quarterback battle but also quarterback play. …

“Everybody’s going to praise Sam for how he played today and they’re going to criticize Tyler. They both probably played pretty well. I know the stats might not say it, but both of them are tremendously talented.”

Buchner at Notre Dame

As a freshman in 2021, Buchner functioned as a run-first relief option for Wisconsin grad transfer Jack Coan. In 10 games that season, Buchner averaged 7.3 yards per carry and ran for three touchdowns.

Overall, Buchner has rushed for 459 yards and seven touchdowns in college.

He is 1-2 as a college starter, including a shocking home loss to unranked Marshall on Sept. 10. After surgery to repair a sprained left AC joint suffered in that game, Buchner returned to practice ahead of schedule and went the distance against the Gamecocks.

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Rallying the Irish from a 24-10 deficit, Buchner passed for three touchdowns and ran for two others. He finished with 273 passing yards (18 completions in 33 attempts) and 61 rushing yards (12 attempts).

Buchner’s 16-yard touchdown pass to tight end Mitchell Evans provided the winning score with 1:38 to play.

Drew Pyne, who went 8-2 as Buchner’s injury replacement last season, transferred to Arizona State in December.

Steve Angeli, a redshirt freshman who took seven game snaps but had no pass attempts in 2022, was the third-string quarterback this spring. Angeli went 8 for 12 passing for 72 yards but was sacked four times on Saturday.

Alabama, meanwhile, is still searching for Bryce Young’s quarterback successor after the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner entered this year’s NFL Draft. Young is widely projected as the Carolina Panthers’ selection with the No. 1 overall pick on Thursday night.

The Crimson Tide emerged from the A-Day spring game on April 22 with no clear-cut leader at quarterback. Redshirt sophomore Jalen Milroe (19 of 37 passing) and redshirt freshman Ty Simpson (12 of 26) combined for three interceptions and two passing touchdowns.

Paige Buchner, the quarterback's younger sister, is a nationally ranked women’s soccer forward from San Diego’s Cathedral Catholic High School who signed on Nov. 9 as part of Notre Dame’s 2023 class.

"She’s an awesome girl and a great sister,” Tyler Buchner said in mid-December. “I’m really excited for her to get here. I think she’s really talented. Might be a better athlete than me. We’ll see.”

When Pyne, who also has three years of remaining eligibility, was still making the rounds in the transfer portal, Freeman was asked on Dec. 10 if the door might remain open for Pyne to return.

“You know something I don’t know?” Freeman said then. “We’ll look at that situation if that comes up in the future. We’ll look at each situation independently: ‘Is this what’s best for our program and for that individual?’ ”

Follow Notre Dame football writer Mike Berardino on Twitter @MikeBerardino.