Sport: Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 10 Drew Pyne, junior quarterback

Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 15 Tobias Merriweather, freshman receiver, forever a memorable recruitment

  Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 15 Tobias Merriweather, freshman receiver, forever a memorable recruitment Tobias Merriweather was the last recruit Brian Kelly sought for Notre Dame and the one Marcus Freeman first set out toward once the Irish head coach. He now needs to become more than that trivia answer.Most likely, sophomore Lorenzo Styles, Davis and fifth-year Braden Lenzy will start. In that alignment, Merriweather could find a role backing up any of them, but particularly the field (wide) or slot receivers, leaving the boundary reserve duty to sophomore Deion Colzie. Recruiting: The No. 22 receiver and No. 135 overall prospect in the class, per rivals.

Listed measurements: 5-foot-11 ½, 200 pounds. 2022-23 year, eligibility: A junior, Pyne still has all four seasons of eligibility remaining. Obviously, the 2020 season did not count against his eligibility clock, not that it would have anyway since he played in only four games, and then Notre Dame judiciously used him in only two games last season, preserving another season of play down the line. Depth Chart: Pyne will back up sophomore Tyler Buchner at Ohio State in 37 days. Ignore any talk in preseason practices of a quarterback competition, even if it is used in headlines. Recruiting: An Under Armour All-American and consensus four-star prospect, Pyne’s offer sheet may be a better indicator of his talent than even those accolades, an indicator that may help explain why Notre Dame catered to his eligibility last season.

Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 15 Ryan Barnes, sophomore cornerback

  Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 15 Ryan Barnes, sophomore cornerback Ryan Barnes found his way into Notre Dame's cornerback rotation in the Fiesta Bowl, perhaps suggesting the sophomore is already within the Irish two-deep this season.Or do you consider scholarship offers to be the better indicator? Then Barnes was a top-tier recruit, chased by Clemson, LSU, Oregon and USC, even though he is a Maryland native.

  Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 10 Drew Pyne, junior quarterback © Provided by NBC Sports

As the No. 7 pro-style quarterback in the class of 2020 and No. 118 overall recruit, per rivals.com, Pyne chose the Irish over Alabama, LSU and Michigan.

CAREER TO DATE With Brendon Clark injured, Pyne rose to No. 2 quarterback as a freshman, backing up Ian Book as Notre Dame found its way to the College Football Playoff. Pyne played in four games, logging stats in only two: a 52-0 blowout of South Florida and the Playoff semifinal loss to Alabama.

He entered 2021 back in the No. 2 spot, thanks to Jack Coan’s graduate transfer from Wisconsin. When Coan suffered an injury against the Badgers, Pyne stepped in to lead a touchdown drive that could have been remembered as absolutely pivotal if not for the fourth-quarter defensive onslaught unleashed by the Irish.

Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 12 Tyler Buchner, sophomore starting QB

  Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 12 Tyler Buchner, sophomore starting QB Any meniton of a quarterback competition at Notre Dame this August is disingenuous. Sophomore Tyler Buchner will start for the Irish, but expectations should still be managed.CAREER TO DATE Buchner took the field for the first time in the second game of his freshman season, working in a sub-package role even if former Irish head coach Brian Kelly insisted that was not the case. Buchner’s first career snap featured him taking the snap around the right side of the line for a 26-yard gain from deep inside Notre Dame’s own territory, part of rushing seven times for 68 yards against Toledo to help spur a stagnant Irish offense.

Memorably, Pyne pointed to Coan as a motivating factor when he joined the huddle after Coan’s injury, underscoring both their strong relationship and the personal nature of the game for Coan.

Pyne then played in the second half of Notre Dame’s loss to Cincinnati, replacing Coan as the Irish offense stagnated. Alas, that spark was too little, too late.

2020: 4 games; 2-of-3 passing for 12 yards. One rush for four yards. 2021: 2 games; 15-of-30 passing for 224 yards and two touchdowns. Six rushes for a loss of six yards.

QUOTES Both Pyne and Buchner excelled in not saying much when they were meeting with the media this spring. That is meant as a compliment, as this space subscribes to Crash Davis’ feelings about young players and the important usage of clichés early in their careers, even if it comes at the expense of juicy narratives and excess clicks.

Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 11 Ramon Henderson, junior cornerback-turned-safety

  Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 11 Ramon Henderson, junior cornerback-turned-safety Ramon Henderson may not have near the experience of Notre Dame's three veteran safeties, but he could crack the Irish starting lineup, nonetheless.CAREER TO DATE Henderson appeared on special teams in five games in 2020, a number that would usually be viewed as an absolute waste of a year of eligibility, but in that specific season, the fifth game had no effect on Henderson’s future.

But two notes tied to offensive assistant coaches can illustrate the spring put forth by Pyne.

First of all, he focused on every detail of his game, repeatedly insisting he tries to work on everything, not just his weaknesses. Improving his strengths adds value, too. It is unclear if his exact understanding of the design of an inside-outside zone run play was a weakness or a strength, but that is how far into the nitty-gritty Pyne delves.

“I was in here with [offensive line coach Harry] Hiestand yesterday for an hour and a half going through just simple inside-outside zone just with the line,” Pyne said in mid-March.

The one area of his game that is a weakness for all quarterbacks is turnovers. Pyne did not throw an interception last season, but he then threw two interceptions in the Blue-Gold Game, with a third invalidated by penalty. Fortunately for Pyne and Buchner, their offensive coordinator is well aware of how vital it is to avoid turnovers.

“I know how critical it is through my own mistakes,” Tommy Rees said this spring in a moment of self-deprecation.

Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 7 Isaiah Foskey, defensive end on a record chase

  Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 7 Isaiah Foskey, defensive end on a record chase Isaiah Foskey's sack totals are gaudy and will define his senior season, but his impact for Notre Dame's defense is actually much more dramatic than that.CAREER TO DATE Foskey played in only four games as a freshman, somewhat surprising in retrospect simply because he has so developed. The Irish defensive line was plenty talented in 2019, so his minimal usage then makes sense still, but it is hard to think of Foskey stuck to the bench, nonetheless. Of course, he had his moments of impact, most notably blocking a punt at Stanford late in the second quarter, sparking a comeback from a 17-7 deficit.

NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS

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WHAT WAS PROJECTED A YEAR AGO “Coan will start in Tallahassee, but Pyne presents a viable option should Coan struggle at any point this season. Presenting failure as the necessity to spur a quarterback controversy is not the vibe anyone is looking for heading into a season, but that may be what it takes for Pyne to usurp Coan this season.

“That is not a knock on Pyne. It is the obvious reality of the Irish seeking out a graduate transfer even before the NCAA approved the one-time transfer rule this spring. They wanted someone proven to raise the floor on the 2021 season, and Coan represents that.

“But even with those odds stacked against Pyne, he will once again be one play away from taking over at all times, and that duty is needed more years than not. …

“The odds will be stacked against Pyne again in 2022, with broad expectations of current freshman Tyler Buchner taking over after Coan. Buchner is the more heralded recruit, but he also hasn’t played since 2019 and by no means was Pyne a meager prospect, as outlined above.

“They will both have their chance in the spring of 2022, and that should be an enjoyable quarterback competition, unlike the current nominal one.”

2022 OUTLOOK As badly as Pyne played in the spring finale — 22-of-33 for 185 yards, a 5.61 yards per pass attempt average — the deck was somewhat stacked against him. With Buchner sidelined by a sprained ankle, Pyne played for both the Blue team and the Gold team, all while wearing a red jersey.

Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 0 Braden Lenzy, fifth-year receiver, one of few healthy WRs

  Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 0 Braden Lenzy, fifth-year receiver, one of few healthy WRs Braden Lenzy was exhausted by the end of the Fiesta Bowl. He should get more rest this season, but not that much more as Notre Dame's depth at receiver remains thin.When Oregon head coach Willie Taggart left to take the job at Florida State, Lenzy flipped back to Notre Dame. Ducks fans were not pleased with that choice, and some made that clear to Lenzy online.

The red jersey is obviously intended to protect a quarterback, but it can also cut into the options available to him. Early-enrolled freshman Steve Angeli was able to dive for the pylon to win the game only because he was not wearing red. If he had been, there would have been an expectation he remain in the pocket or at least close to it, and the defense would have certainly tagged him down before that full extension to the goal line.

Pyne is not as much a running quarterback as Buchner, but his ability to get outside the pocket aids his passing. Without that, he was forced into some passes he may not have otherwise thrown. Now his interceptions were more simply terrible throws, but the general struggles were not entirely as bad as they seemed on the surface.

Nonetheless, they all but sealed that this quarterback competition is not genuinely an ongoing one. If Pyne had starred in that moment, Rees would have had to ponder his options all summer. Instead, Pyne put on tape the reasons he likely will not be called upon for game-in, game-out showings.

As a backup, Pyne’s mobility and figuratively-grounded approach bode well. They provide a change of pace that forces a defense to recalibrate, and that alone gives the offense a moment to breathe while the starter recovers or the gameplan adjusts.

Those same tricks do not apply as a starter.

Pyne will be needed to spell Buchner at some point. After all, the sophomore sprained his ankle walking down the stairs while on the phone this spring. That moment may be needed to win a game, a la Wisconsin last year.

Counting Down the Irish — 25 to 21, already highlighting Notre Dame’s defensive front-seven

  Counting Down the Irish — 25 to 21, already highlighting Notre Dame’s defensive front-seven Notre Dame's defensive front-seven has been a strength for a few seasons now, but it may have never been this deep, as shown by a ranking of the expected impacts from players this season.Logically, this list should include most of the starting 11 on offense, most of the starting 11 on defense, and a handful of key backups. When two of those backups are running backs, one not even healthy enough for contact yet, the defensive reserves could go underrepresented.

Inside the Irish

Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 11 Ramon Henderson, junior cornerback-turned-safety Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 11 Ron Powlus III, sophomore QB providing steadiness... Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 12 Jordan Botelho, a defensive end-turned-linebacker

DOWN THE ROAD Notre Dame not playing Pyne in more games last season suggests a broad understanding of what his future likely holds. With Buchner presumed the Irish starter for the next two or three seasons, Pyne will need to find somewhere else to get a thorough shot at playing time.

By preserving a year of eligibility last season, the Notre Dame coaching staff saved one for Pyne’s next stop, theoretically making him a more desirable prospect to other coaching staffs. Do not scoff at that thought process; it was a generous one by the Irish coaches, although not a completely altruistic one as appeasing the best interests of the player engenders goodwill in the locker room and cuts down on the chances of an early transfer by the player in question.

Pyne will graduate at some point either this December, this May or next December. (This space is not going to speculate on his class load without explicit knowledge of it.) With a diploma in hand, he could conceivably transfer to a program needing a quarterback with two or three seasons left to play.

NOTRE DAME 99-TO-0

From Blake Grupe to Braden Lenzy, the offseason countdown begins anew

No. 99 Blake Grupe, kicker, Arkansas State transfer

No. 99 Rylie Mills, junior defensive lineman, a tackle now playing more at end

No. 98 Tyson Ford, early-enrolled freshman, a defensive tackle recruited as a four-star end

No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, sophomore defensive tackle, still ‘as wide as a Volkswagen’

No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, a junior defensive tackle who tore his ACL in March

No. 91 Josh Bryan, sophomore kicker

No. 91 Aiden Gobaira, early-enrolled freshman defensive end, four-star recruit

Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick sees conference upheaval as 'validation' of independence

  Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick sees conference upheaval as 'validation' of independence Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick doesn't sound inclined to give up football independence anytime soon, saying conference upheaval validates current setup.That was the underlying message of public comments by athletic director Jack Swarbrick Wednesday, his most definitive on the possibility since the Big Ten Conference welcomed USC and UCLA as future members six weeks earlier.

No. 90 Alexander Ehrensberger, junior defensive end, a German project nearing completion

No. 88 Mitchell Evans, sophomore tight end

No. 87 Michael Mayer, junior tight end, likely All-American

No. 85 Holden Staes, incoming freshman tight end

No. 84 Kevin Bauman, junior tight end

No. 83 Jayden Thomas, sophomore receiver, former four-star recruit

No. 80 Cane Berrong, sophomore tight end coming off an ACL injury

No. 79 Tosh Baker, one of four young Irish offensive tackles

No. 78 Pat Coogan, sophomore center, recovering from a meniscus injury

No. 77 Ty Chan, incoming offensive tackle, former four-star recruit

No. 76 Joe Alt, sophomore starting left tackle

No. 75 Josh Lugg, sixth-year offensive lineman, likely starting right guard

No. 74 Billy Schrauth, early-enrolled freshman offensive guard coming off foot surgery

No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, senior offensive tackle-turned-guard

No. 72 Caleb Johnson, sophomore offensive tackle, former Auburn pledge

No. 68 Michael Carmody, junior offensive line utility man

No. 65 Michael Vinson, long snapper, ‘Milk’

No. 65 Chris Smith, defensive tackle, Harvard transfer

No. 59 Aamil Wagner, consensus four-star incoming freshman offensive tackle

No. 58 Ashton Craig, incoming freshman center

No. 57 Jayson Ademilola, fifth-year defensive tackle, coming off shoulder surgery

No. 56 Joey Tanona, early-enrolled offensive guard coming off a concussion

No. 56 Howard Cross, senior defensive tackle with heavy hands, and that’s a good thing

No. 55 Jarrett Patterson, fifth-year offensive lineman, three-year starting center, captain

No. 54 Jacob Lacey, senior defensive tackle, now lighter and a starter

No. 54 Blake Fisher, sophomore starting right tackle, ‘ginormous’

No. 52 Zeke Correll, senior center or perhaps left guard

No. 52 Bo Bauer, fifth-year linebacker, Ironman

No. 50 Rocco Spindler, sophomore offensive guard

No. 48 Will Schweitzer, sophomore end-turned-linebacker

No. 47 Jason Oyne, sophomore defensive end-turned-tackle

No. 44 Junior Tuihalamaka, early-enrolled freshman linebacker, consensus four-star recruit

No. 44 Alex Peitsch, junior long snapper

No. 42 Nolan Ziegler, early-enrolled freshman linebacker, Irish legacy

No. 41 Donovan Hinish, incoming freshman defensive tackle, Kurt’s brother

No. 40 Joshua Burnham, early-enrolled freshman linebacker-turned-end

No. 34 Osita Ekwonu, senior Vyper end coming off an Achilles injury

No. 31 NaNa Osafo-Mensah, senior defensive end

No. 29 Matt Salerno, fifth-year receiver, punt returner, former walk-on

No. 28 TaRiq Bracy, fifth-year starting nickel back

No. 27 JD Bertrand, senior linebacker recovering from a plaguing wrist injury

No. 25 Philip Riley, sophomore cornerback

No. 25 Chris Tyree, junior running back, possible Irish bellcow

No. 24 Jack Kiser, senior linebacker, second-year starter

No. 23 Jayden Bellamy, early-enrolled freshman cornerback

No. 22 Justin Walters, sophomore safety

No. 22 Logan Diggs, sophomore running back with a shoulder injury

No. 21 Jaden Mickey, early-enrolled freshman cornerback

No. 20 Jadarian Price, early-enrolled freshman running back with a ruptured Achilles

No. 20 Benjamin Morrison, freshman cornerback

No. 18 Chance Tucker, sophomore cornerback

No. 18 Steve Angeli, freshman QB, Blue-Gold Game star

No. 17 Jaylen Sneed, early-enrolled linebacker, Rover of the future

No. 16 Brandon Joseph, Northwestern transfer, preseason All-American, starting safety

No. 16 Deion Colzie, sophomore receiver

No. 15 Tobias Merriweather, freshman receiver, forever a memorable recruitment

No. 15 Ryan Barnes, sophomore cornerback

No. 14 Bryce McFerson, freshman punter facing a Harvard challenge

No. 13 Gi’Bran Payne, freshman running back, late recruit

No. 12 Tyler Buchner, sophomore starting QB

No. 12 Jordan Botelho, a defensive end-turned-linebacker

No. 11 Ron Powlus III, sophomore QB providing steadiness to a chaotic room

No. 11 Ramon Henderson, junior cornerback-turned-safety

No. 9 Eli Raridon, incoming freshman tight end with a torn ACL

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Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 10 Drew Pyne, junior quarterback originally appeared on NBCSports.com

Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick sees conference upheaval as 'validation' of independence .
Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick doesn't sound inclined to give up football independence anytime soon, saying conference upheaval validates current setup.That was the underlying message of public comments by athletic director Jack Swarbrick Wednesday, his most definitive on the possibility since the Big Ten Conference welcomed USC and UCLA as future members six weeks earlier.

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