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QB Tyler Buchner, WR Lorenzo Styles making impact as freshmen at Notre Dame

The long hours they pull on the practice field and in the football building flow naturally into one long-running conversation that continues nightly at their shared apartment. 

Notre Dame freshman quarterback Tyler Buchner (running in a touchdown against USC last month) has impressed the Irish coaching staff with his ability to move past a couple of glaring turnovers this season.
Notre Dame freshman quarterback Tyler Buchner (running in a touchdown against USC last month) has impressed the Irish coaching staff with his ability to move past a couple of glaring turnovers this season.
Paul Sancya/AP

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Freshman roommates don’t always click, but that hasn’t been a problem for two of the fastest risers on Notre Dame’s offense.

You can hear the pride in quarterback Tyler Buchner’s voice when he discusses the steadily expanding role of wideout Lorenzo Styles Jr.

“Lorenzo is extremely hard-working to [the point] where you almost think he’s crazy because of how hard he works,” Buchner said recently. “It’s something I try to emulate. It’s great living with him because of how dedicated he is to football and school and everything he does.”

No one will ever accuse these two of cheating their natural talent. The long hours they pull on the practice field and in the football building flow naturally into one long-running conversation that continues nightly at their shared apartment.

“When I didn’t know something, I’d say, ‘Hey, Tyler, what do I need to do on this?’ ” Styles said. “We’re both bouncing [questions] off each other.”

During fall camp and even into the early weeks of the season, Styles said, he struggled to recognize the signals as they came in from the sideline. The namesake son of a former Ohio State and NFL linebacker credits Buchner with helping him get that part down.

Understated as always, Buchner downplays his role in that process.

“I’m in all the meetings with [signaler Cole Capen], so I sort of have a better grasp with that,” Buchner said. “Just having ’Zo as someone who’s also trying to learn the offense, it’s been good. You learn a lot more when you’re teaching someone. Just like studying for anything, it’s helpful to have a study partner.”

There’s also the emotional component that serves as a regular discussion topic.

“It’s definitely been nice,” Buchner said. “We’re both freshmen. We’re both playing behind someone. It’s been good talking to him about it. We deal with the same things and have the same problems and the same good things that happen to us.”

After co-captain Avery Davis’ season-ending knee injury, Styles figures to get more touches as the regular season winds down. He leads the eighth-ranked Irish with an 18.3-yard average on his 11 receptions, and his blazing speed has proven to be a weapon on jet sweeps as well.

Buchner, meanwhile, has endured a few hiccups, most notably the pick-six he threw in the second half at Virginia Tech and the goal-line fumble he lost last week at Virginia. Yet, the multisport prep star from San Diego is second in rushing (213 yards) and easily leads the team in yards per pass attempt (9.8).

Accuracy remains an issue for Buchner, a 59% passer, but he does have three touchdown passes to go with his three interceptions.

“He’s a freak athlete to be a quarterback,” Styles said. “I’m super-excited for him, seeing where he’s bound to go.”

Offensive coordinator Tommy Rees keeps expanding Buchner’s play sheet a little more each week, and coach Brian Kelly has been impressed with how quickly Buchner has been able to move past his few game-day gaffes.

“Every experience is a new one,” Kelly said. “There’s different conversations. All those things are really good. We want to get him back in there and see how he leads that next drive. You can’t duplicate that in practice.”

Whether he’s breaking things down for his talented roommate or reconstructing what he saw for Kelly and Rees on the sideline, Buchner is as impressive talking the game as he is playing it.

“Did we want to fumble the ball? Absolutely not,” Kelly said. “But all those things are building toward his development. Those are moments that allow us to really see what he’s about. We like the things we see about him.”

Buchner doesn’t hesitate when asked if the game has started to slow down.

“It’s like doing a math problem,” he said. “The more times you’ve done the math problem, the faster it gets for you. It’s the same for football. The more comfortable you are, the more times you do it, the more you learn it, the more confident you’ll be in it.”