Sometimes, like Notre Dame Football, a winner is a dreamer who just won’t quit.
Notre Dame head football coach Marcus Freeman shared his dream of prevailing against the team he once played for in the Ohio State Buckeyes and solidifying the Irish as a National Championship contender in his first season as the full-time head coach in a late-August press conference.
“Any competitor wants this,” Freeman said. “There’s no better way to see where we are as a football team than to play one of the best teams in the country.”
Notre Dame fell to 0-2 with a loss to the Marshall Thundering Herd before rising back to the prestigious heights it once possessed with a 9-2 record and a win against the University of South Carolina in the Gator Bowl.
The transfer portal has given and taken away from the Fighting Irish before the end of January.
Four-star linebacker transfer Javontae Jean-Baptiste made his way to South Bend from the Buckeyes after 47 games played and six total starts during his five years with the program. Four-star Virginia Tech wide receiver Kaleb Smith, as well as three-star Oklahoma State safety Thomas Harper, both packed their bags and made their way to the Irish’s football program after successful seasons of their own.
Four-star tackle Jacob Lacey departed for Oklahoma in October, while three-star tight end Cane Berrong transferred to Coastal Carolina.
Notre Dame football would need a crown jewel to regain its status as one of the top programs in college football. And it would have to be at what can be considered the most critical position in football.
From Tyler Buckner to Jack Coan to Drew Pyne, the Irish have had a revolving door of starting quarterbacks since Ian Book graduated in 2020. Pyne took most of the starts last season after Buchner suffered a shoulder injury, causing him to miss the rest of the year.
Pyne would end up leaving for Arizona State upon season’s end, leaving the Irish with Buckner and redshirt freshman Steve Angeli as two of the team’s QB options.
Could this next one, at least for one year, be the next true starter?
Notre Dame football’s sneakiest transfer portal move: QB Sam Hartman
Where the transfer portal had been less than kind to the Irish in 2022, save for the transfer of four-star safety Brandon Joseph, Notre Dame’s needs for a starting quarterback was all but answered with a single transfer.
While the Purdue Boilermakers got former Texas sophomore Hudson Card and the Oregon State Beavers brought in former Clemson five-star recruit D.J. Uiagalelei, the Irish earned the commitment of one of the highest-rated transfers in the portal in Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman.
A five-year member of Wake Forest, Hartman more than cleared the Demon Deacons’ career passing record with just under 13,000 passing yards from 2018-22, according to Sports Reference. His 110 passing touchdowns are 10 away from doubling second-place holder Riley Skinner, who played at Wake Forest from 2006-09.
The Wake Forest passing offense ranked first in the ACC with 311.9 passing yards and in passing touchdowns with 43, putting the Deacons on track for an 8-5 record and a 10-point win over the Missouri Tigers in the Gasparilla Bowl.
Notre Dame football’s passing offense ranked 98th in the country with 207.1 passing yards per game and tied with Florida Atlantic and Bowling Green with 25 passing touchdowns.
The Irish are expected to hire Joe Rudolph from Virginia Tech to be the team’s next offensive line coach after they promoted tight ends coach Gerad Parker to offensive coordinator. A former wide receiver for the Kentucky Wildcats, Parker has coached wide receivers and tight ends at West Virginia, Penn State, Purdue and Marshall, among others.
Notre Dame can also count on Hartman to be a solid stopgap option before either Buckner or Angeli need to retake snaps under center. Four-star quarterback Kenny Minchey will join the Irish via the 2023 signing class.
Only time will tell just how much Sam Hartman can elevate Notre Dame’s offense. But should he play as advertised, it could be safe to say that the Irish will have more than a formidable offense going into next season.