“I’m no quarterback guru. I’m not afraid to admit that”, so stated Marcus Freeman shortly after the first Spring practice last week.
Freeman may lack in-depth knowledge about the intricacies of the most important position on the field, but he apparently plans to make up for it by building good relationships with his quarterbacks. “Every week we spend time together, we have a quarterback meeting with just me and the quarterbacks because I want them to know I’m a teammate, ” the first year head coach said right after making his “I’m no guru” comment.
The Notre Dame quarterback room is, as is typical, a small one, made up of just four. It includes, the favored to earn the job Tyler Buchner, nipping at his heels Drew Pyne, early entry freshman Steve Angeli and walk on legacy, Ron Powlus III. Both Buchner and Pyne saw meaningful action last season in relief of starter Jack Coan.
Last season Buchner and Pyne posted comparable passing statistics. Buchner 21-35, three TDs, three interceptions and 298 yards. Pyne threw for 224 yards, completing 15 of 30 throws. He had two TD passes, and no interceptions. Where the two significantly differ statistically is in the running game. Buchner ran for 336 yards on 46 carries and three TDs. Pyne carried 6 times for minus 6.
Quarterbacks of course must be leaders on and off the field, after all how else are you going to drive the team in the last minute of a game 80 yards to snatch a come from behind victory? In the leadership category, both players exhibited calm confidence in a recent press availability. Pyne however, according to offensive coordinator Tommy Rees (who also spoke to the media), just may have a slight lead in the category. The Sophomore from New Cannan, Connecticut has actually been impressive at his press conferences dating backing to the Cincinnati game last season. According to Rees, Pyne, “Has presence. Guys gravitate to his voice. He’s out in front, he has those abilities.”.
In this important area however, Buchner appears to be more of a work in progress. Rees is working to bring the leadership skills out of the promising sophomore, “My message to Tyler was ‘hey, you’re not a freshman anymore. You have to take the next step from a presence standpoint. If you’re going to go win the job as the next starting quarterback at Notre Dame, the team has to look at you that way, and the only way you get them to look at you that way is by handling yourself that way.'”
Both players seem to have appreciated the effort that Freeman has been making to get to know his quarterbacks. “The meetings with coach Freeman have been really useful, helpful. We do them every week.” Buchner said in response to a question about the regular film watching get togethers. “He provides a defensive aspect to whatever we’re watching…..and the quarterbacks will talk about what’s going on on the offensive side of the ball….We get a look at football from the other perspective which is different from what we are use to.”
Buchner obviously has enjoyed getting to know his new head coach, “He’s a really good guy, he’s cool, he’s everything you’d want in a head coach.” And he apparently see’s the value in the bonding process, after all he said, “you can’t yell at us if you don’t know us.”
Pyne also praised his new head coach and also has seen value in getting to know the man he says is “the epitome what a Notre Dame head coach is.” When asked just what “the epitome” of a Notre Dame head coach should be Pyne did not hesitate, “Family man, he cares about his players, and he want’s to win a national championship.”