Notre Dame plans to start QB Tyler Buchner in the Gator Bowl

All reports from Notre Dame’s Gator Bowl preparations back on campus indicated sophomore Tyler Buchner was in line to return to the starting lineup for Friday’s game.

As the team arrived Monday in Jacksonville, Fla., head coach Marcus Freeman confirmed that will be the plan for the Irish (8-4).

“As we get down here and get closer to game time, on the depth chart Tyler will be with the ones and Steve Angeli will be with the two, Ron Powlus (III) with the threes,” Freeman told reporters Monday prior to the team’s first practice.

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Due to travel delays across the country, not all of No. 21 Notre Dame’s players, who were allowed to travel home for Christmas weekend, made it down to Jacksonville in time for Monday afternoon’s practice, but Buchner was there to take first-team reps. Both Buchner and freshman Angeli were taking first-team reps at times earlier this month.

The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Buchner missed the final 10 games of Notre Dame’s regular season with a left shoulder injury that required surgery. Buchner sustained the injury against Marshall in a second consecutive loss to start the season. Buchner was Notre Dame’s leading rusher and passer in the first two losses of the season at Ohio State, 21-10, and at home against Marshall, 26-21.

Buchner completed 28 of his 50 passes (56%) for 378 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions in the first two starts of his career. He also rushed 24 times for 62 yards and two touchdowns.

Buchner’s return to the practice field has been so successful that offensive coordinator Tommy Rees said Notre Dame’s practice on Dec. 4 was one of Buchner’s strongest practices he’s had in his two years with the program.

“He’s been great,” Freeman said of Buchner on Monday. “He’s progressing from not playing football for so many weeks. Every day he gets better and better in his decision-making — just getting back there and having live reps.

“Obviously, he’s not getting hit. He’s in the red (jersey). Our quarterbacks are all in the red. To have him out there getting live reps has been really good.”

Junior Drew Pyne started the last 10 games for Notre Dame, but he opted to enter the transfer portal after being informed by the coaching staff that it would be looking to bring a transfer quarterback into the program to compete for the starting job next season. Pyne has since signed with Arizona State.

The 6-2, 211-pound Angeli played seven snaps across two games: UNLV and Syracuse. All seven plays were run by someone other than Angeli.

Angeli signed with Notre Dame as a three-star recruit out of Oradell (NJ) Bergen Catholic. Rivals excluded him from its rankings of the top 30 pro-style quarterbacks in the 2022 class. He was ranked as the 14th-best prospect in New Jersey in his class.

No. 19 South Carolina (8-4) arrived Sunday in Jacksonville before its first practice Monday morning. The two teams will meet Friday in TIAA Bank Field at 3:30 pm EST (ESPN).

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