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Wednesday, April 24, 2024
The Observer

Football beat: Buchner transfer roundtable

The news of Tyler Buchner entering the transfer portal brought a host of questions along with it. Buchner says he remains open to returning to Notre Dame, but will he? If not, where will the Gator Bowl MVP take his services? And what are the ripple effects both on Buchner’s career and Notre Dame’s quarterback situation. The Observer’s football beat delved into those questions. 

Where do you think Tyler Buchner might go? 

All writers agreed that Alabama is a plausible option, but here’s a look at some of the reasoning beat writers gave for the Tide or another team landing Buchner’s services. Another team listed as a potential option was TCU who is looking to replace Max Duggan under center. 

Andrew McGuinness: Auburn

Everyone is hyping up Alabama as a potential landing spot, and with good reason. But the Tigers showed signs of life with last year’s mid-season coaching change. One of the things that could eliminate that progress is poor quarterback play. Between Robby Ashford, TJ Finley and Holden Geriner, Auburn has bodies but certainly no clear-cut No. 1. The Tigers give Buchner a great balance of exposure in the SEC without the sky-high, potentially crushing expectations that would come if he joins their biggest rival instead.

Matthew Crow: UCLA

There hasn’t been much buzz about Buchner looking at UCLA, but it seems like a strong fit. The Bruins are in the market for a new quarterback after the graduation of five-year starter Dorian Thompson-Robinson, and Buchner brings a similar dual-threat skill set to the one that helped Thompson-Robinson lead UCLA to a 9-4 season last year. Buchner fits the archetype of a long list of star quarterbacks in Chip Kelly’s dynamic offense, and UCLA provides him the opportunity to join a competitive team and return home to Southern California.

J.J Post: Alabama, Florida or Stanford

Alabama is the obvious option. All the buzz out of Tuscaloosa has indicated that neither Ty Simpson or Jalen Milroe has assertively grabbed the starting job for next fall. Buchner’s principle recruiter out of high school was Tommy Rees, the new offensive coordinator at Alabama. The optics of a consensus top five team taking an ostensible backup from a lower ranked team are wacky, but there are stranger moves.

Florida head coach Billy Napier was about as clear as possible after Florida’s spring game about wanting to check the Portal for quarterback options after an underwhelming quarterbacking display. Buchner is currently by some distance the quarterback in the portal with the highest pedigree, and he could jump to one of the biggest brands in college football for an immediate starting job. His long-term eligibility would also fit Napier’s likely rebuild. 

Stanford wouldn’t be a glamorous option by any means. Stanford’s rebuild makes Florida’s look like a walk in the park. There’s no way around it — the Cardinal have a new coach, a difficult schedule and not much in the way of returning talent from a bad team. But Buchner is from California, and the chance to play closer to home could appeal to him. He’d also have the chance to be the face of a return to glory if all went well. And that’s without touching the obvious value of a Stanford degree.

Aidan Thomas: Notre Dame 

Alabama might become a betting favorite, but to be honest, this move feels like Buchner trying to find a spot where he can start this year. To get a shot in the NFL, you have to start in college. Starting at a high level is a bonus. As of now, Buchner is the clear favorite to start for Notre Dame in 2024. Is he willing to follow Rees into a murky Alabama quarterback situation that provides no guarantees? There’s other Power-5 options out there, but at this point in the spring, Buchner is going to almost certainly have to win a quarterback battle wherever he goes. I agree with most of the listed options as possibilities, and I’d even throw Cal into the mix. But unless someone essentially guarantees Buchner a starting job, I still think Buchner sticks it out in South Bend, where he can take over the starting role next year.  

Madeline Ladd: San Diego State or ... Wake?

Though Alabama is a possible option for Buchner to reconvene with Tommy Rees, Buchner may look to scale down. With that being said, San Diego State could be a potential move for Buchner as he heads back home to the West Coast to a Group of Six school where the pressure and expectations aren’t as high. Lower stakes could mean more playing time for Buchner as well. 

Also throwing in Wake Forest, wouldn’t that be ironic?

Should Notre Dame pursue a transfer portal addition at QB if Buchner leaves?

Andrew McGuinness, Madeline Ladd: Yes

Andrew: This is the easiest question to answer for me: Yes. Steve Angeli is the only other viable person to take snaps at quarterback right now (no disrespect to Kenny Minchey), and he’s never thrown a collegiate pass. As Buchner proved last year, injuries can happen at quarterback. And while Hartman doesn’t come with the same level of risk given he won’t run as much, it only takes one play to change a season. The bigger question, of course, is how likely it is Notre Dame can find a quarterback who both fits the program and the University with only four months until their season kicks off.

Madeline: I’d say yes given the unknown of Steve Angelli and freshman Kenny Minchey being the only QB’s behind Hartman. With the unpredictability we’ve seen in the quarterback room, grabbing a solid veteran from the portal would be a safe move for the program. However, finding someone fit for the job is another question Notre Dame will have to figure out. 

J.J Post, Tyler Reidy, Aidan Thomas: No

J.J: It's marginally worrisome that the current backup options haven’t thrown a collegiate pass in their careers. But Notre Dame is also in a weird spot with their potential options in the portal. Purdue’s Brady Allen has been floated as a potential option, but would that not be another quarterback that hasn’t thrown a collegiate pass? I’m sure Notre Dame would love to add an experienced options a’la Jack Coan … but what graduate student would want to spend their final year of college football as a backup? The Irish, as things currently stand, have one scholarship left to fill in the portal. I think another addition to a currently short safety room would be a far better use of that last slot. 

Tyler: This question comes down to Notre Dame’s 2023 schedule and path to a College Football Playoff berth. If the biggest challenges were low-end top 25 teams, I would be all for an insurance option behind Sam Hartman. Expect your gunslinger to cruise through the slate and, if he can’t, have someone capable of pushing you just far enough to have a shot 12-0. However, that’s not what this season is about at all, as Notre Dame has three daunting games on the ledger (Ohio State, USC, Clemson). Assuming they avoid an upset, the Irish will have to win at least two of those games. A backup signal-caller from the portal almost certainly won’t accomplish that goal. A different addition — say, in the defensive backs room — could make a significant difference against the high-powered passing threats of the Buckeyes and Trojans.

Aidan: I won’t take up too much space. I think the Irish could be far better suited with a defensive depth addition or maybe a talent at receiver if they can find a good boundary receiver to compete with Deion Colzie. I don’t see them finding a match with a transfer portal quarterback who’s both an upgrade over Angeli and Minchey and willing to be a backup. 

Is Notre Dame’s 2024 starting quarterback currently on the roster? 

Tyler: If Buchner sticks around, he’s the guy by default. Unlike Angeli and Minchey, he has actually played a full game of live college football. And given Notre Dame’s recent portal moves for quarterbacks Jack Coan and Hartman, experience appears to be the asset of choice right now in South Bend. Now, if Buchner leaves for good, expect a competition between Angeli and Minchey at the very least ahead of 2024, with Notre Dame ready to use the portal again if the practice reps don’t look promising.

Madeline: There is a real potential of five star recruit CJ Carr coming in and owning the job from the start. Though this has not been the track record for QBs at ND, there’s plenty of talent and youth arriving in the Notre Dame quarterback room to no doubt have an impact. However, If Buchner does end up transferring, it could be difficult not having a veteran with collegiate experience and familiarity with the team in 2024.

Matthew: I think it’s most likely that the 2024 starter is not currently on the roster. We’ve seen the Irish be highly aggressive in the portal if they feel like there are better short-term options available than what they have. After Buchner’s dynamic performance in the Gator Bowl win, a lot of fans felt comfortable with him entering 2023 as the undisputed starter, but Notre Dame did not pass up the chance to add a proven star in Hartman. We saw a similar situation with Jack Coan the year before. The additions of Hartman and Coan have not only shown the Irish’s willingness to find their quarterback in the portal, but also their ability to attract established starters at major-conference programs. Assuming Buchner isn’t on the 2024 roster, I could see a big-name quarterback seeing a clear opportunity to step in as a day-one starter for one of the nation’s premier programs.

What do you think is the best move for Tyler’s career? Staying at ND or transferring?

Aidan Thomas, Madeline Ladd, Tyler Reidy, Matthew Crow: Staying at Notre Dame

Aidan: I’m not anti-transfer portal and I think everyone who entered from Notre Dame prior to Buchner probably made the right decision for their career. Buchner, however, I think has a lot to gain from starting. He’s extremely raw, but his ceiling is massive. Sam Hartman is a consistent and prolific passer, both qualities that Buchner could improve upon. Learn behind Hartman for a year and then take the starting job by the horns next year. Like I said earlier, I’m not sure Buchner finds a situation that both guarantees him the starting job and keeps him playing against Power-Five competition. 

Madeline: Though this is currently hard to predict without knowing where Buchner will end up, staying at Notre Dame would be the best move for him, in my opinion. He would be able to get more reps backing up Hartman and potentially have the job in 2024. Transferring has the potential of putting Buchner in the shadows again, whereas there is hope of a 2024 spot if he sticks it out with the Irish. Nevertheless, as we have seen, the job is never a guarantee.  

Tyler: Buchner has the upside to garner attention from strong, but retooling, programs. However, his lack of experience holds him back from being a marquee portal name. As a result, Buchner might have to make the difficult decision between starting and winning should he choose to leave. The non-contact clause and return contingency in his announcement further affirm the idea that it’s going to take a near-perfect fit to sway Buchner.

Matthew: I think that staying at Notre Dame would put Buchner clearly in the driver’s seat to start in 2024 and 2025. With him continuing to improve, and with the Irish building up what will likely be their most talented rosters in recent memory, he would be in a great position to play a starring role for a team in the mix for playoff berths. However, you have to consider that he went into last fall expecting to be the full-time starter at quarterback in 2022 and 2023, and, by virtue of injuries and Hartman’s arrival, he now stares down the likely scenario that he will start just three games in those two seasons combined. By keeping the possibility of returning to Notre Dame open, I think that Buchner ensures that he can make the right decision for what he’s looking for at this stage of his career.

J.J. Post, Andrew McGuinness: Both could work, but leaving might help Buchner

J.J: Even if Buchner was to go to Tuscaloosa and win the job this summer, there’s no guarantee of future job security. He could go to Stanford, where he’d start immediately and without question. The pressure would be as limited as one could ask for — even Buchner at his worst would likely be a welcome sight for new coach Troy Taylor and the media spotlight in Palo Alto is far from massive. But the weapons around him would be minimal and he would need to be that much more impressive to catch the eye of scouts at the next level. Or, he could return to Notre Dame, learn under one of college football’s most accomplished quarterbacks for a season and have the job open for him in 2024. But as was proven this offseason, that job is far from a guarantee if Notre Dame thinks they can find a better option in the portal. Each of these options is distinctly different, and would produce distinctly different results depending on his performance. 

Andrew: If Buchner doesn’t leave, odds are he’s the starting quarterback in 2024. Remember, because Buchner only played in three games in 2022, he’s only used one year of eligibility. It’s absolutely possible that Buchner could spend this year learning under Hartman and then start for the Irish for the next two years.

But, if another quality school can accelerate that timeline by another year, Buchner should probably jump on it. The one caveat I’ll add is that I’d be worried about going to a truly elite program like Alabama where the trial by fire element could be too much for someone with only two games of 20 plus pass attempts in the NCAA. Buchner might be ready for that type of opportunity in another year, but that feels like an awfully big jump to make after a year spent largely on the sideline.