Expectations Elevated for Notre Dame in 2023 Following Sam Hartman Addition

Expectations are always high at Notre Dame. It comes with the territory. After Notre Dame landed arguably the best quarterback in the transfer portal this season, Sam Hartman, expectations will be elevated even further for the Fighting Irish in head coach Marcus Freeman’s second season on the job. A year after the quarterback position held the Irish back, they enter 2023 with a quarterback who set the ACC record for career touchdown passes a couple of weeks ago in the Gasparilla Bowl.

Everyone knew Notre Dame needed to land a quarterback in the transfer portal. After seeing Tyler Buchner get injured again and having to retrofit the offense around Drew Pyne, it was clear that Notre Dame simply could not enter 2023 with the same quarterback room if they wanted to seriously challenge for a playoff spot. What caliber of quarterback they added would determine the ceiling of next year’s team. By adding someone of Sam Hartman’s pedigree, this team’s ceiling was just raised significantly.

Notre Dame returns three of its five starting offensive linemen with a pair of future NFL tackles bookending the line in Joe Alt and Blake Fisher. In addition, Zeke Correll returns as the center, with open spots between him and Alt and Fisher on each side. Between Andrew Kristofic, Rocco Spindler, and Billy Schrauth, Notre Dame should once again feature one of the best offensive lines in college football.

The Irish will also feature one of the best running back rooms in the country, with Chris Tyree, Audric Estime, and Logan Diggs returning in 2023, along with 2022 freshmen Gi’Bran Payne and Jadarian Price. They’ll be joined by dynamic freshman Jeremiyah Love as well.

Notre Dame does have to replace all-time great Michael Mayer, but they have also recruited the position about as well as any program in the country. Between Mitchell Evans, Eli Raridon, Kevin Bauman, and Holden Staes, there might not be another Mayer – and there might not be for a long time, if ever – but there multiple options there with NFL talent.

Notre Dame’s receiver room should be significantly better in 2023, with Deion Colzie, Jayden Thomas, and Lorenzo Styles all entering their junior years. Tobias Merriweather will be entering his sophomore season and could see the most significant bump in production with Hartman’s addition because of his ability to get open downfield. Add in the incoming quartet of freshman receivers and graduate transfer Kaleb Smith from Virginia Tech, and you have a much deeper and more diverse set of skills to work with.

There are still questions on the defensive side of the ball that Notre Dame is looking to shore up along the defensive line and in the secondary through the portal as well, but the biggest question was always going to be at quarterback. Notre Dame has seemingly answered that question as well as anyone could have hoped a month ago. There was no guarantee that Sam Hartman would enter the portal a month ago.

Notre Dame was linked to names like Devin Leary, Hudson Card, and Brennan Armstrong early in the portal season, but nothing ever materialized. None of them would have moved the needle for the Irish the way Hartman has. Leary is supremely talented and had an amazing 2021 season, but an injury will prevent him from participating in spring practice which would have been a significant disadvantage. Card has a ton of upside but has only played in a handful of games and lacks the experience that Hartman brings to the table. In fact, it’s hard to imagine any other quarterback that fits precisely what Notre Dame needed as Hartman.

On the heels of a 9-4 campaign capped off by a win in the Gator Bowl, Notre Dame is a surefire preseason top-10 program with a quarterback like Hartman who figures to generate a lot of preseason Heisman buzz. Notre Dame underachieved in 2022, but they also got mediocre quarterback play for much of the season as well. Elite quarterback play can elevate the other positions on offense and mask deficiencies that might exist on defense. For instance, Notre Dame was not equipped to win any shootouts. They are now. Hopefully, that’s not needed, but in today’s college football, you must score points in bunches to win. The college football playoffs proved that.

Speaking of the playoffs, with an elite quarterback, they are very much in play for the Irish in 2023. However, had Notre Dame not landed an elite signal caller in the portal and rode into next year with its current room and more of a developmental transfer, that likely would not have been the case.

While the expectations on the team, overall, are elevated, they are even more on Offensive Coordinator Tommy Rees. Rees was dealt a difficult hand at quarterback this year – albeit with cards he was responsible for – but showed in 2021 he can get a lot out of a transfer in Jack Coan. He has a much more polished and talented quarterback to work with now. It’s fair to say that Rees hasn’t ever had a quarterback like Hartman to work with. The expectation on the Irish offense now is that Notre Dame will have an explosive, high-scoring offense in 2023 – not an offense that struggles to score points in a home game against Stanford.

Notre Dame still has more questions to answer before we know just how high reasonable expectations for 2023 can be, but landing Hartman was a massive step in the right direction for Freeman and the program. If Hartman delivers the kind of production at Notre Dame that he did at Wake Forest, we could be in line for a really, really fun ride in 2023.

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11 Comments

  1. Great job by Freeman and Rees bringing this guy in. Very encouraging too see this kind of success with the transfer portal.

  2. If Buchner stays, get him playing time. Start Hartman, and if he doesn’t throw three interceptions, start him the second half, but get Buchner in. From game one! Show the need for opponents to prep for two very different threats, and they have a week to prep. They know ND is going to run the ball in the second half, and Buchner adds so much to the run game. ND is running at you by at least the fourth quarter, and excuse my radical idea, even let Buchner pass a few times when he’s in. Buchner won’t get “needed experience” on the bench, watching. If Buchner stays; if not, to quote Jesse Jackson, “the question is moot’.

    1. It’s too bad that Buchner isn’t as good as Hartman. But he just ain’t.
      And this ain’t “everyone gets a turn” intramurals.
      The best players get on the field.

      1. An actual post from David I can fully agree on. MTA I get it but no bro. Unless Hartman struggles, it’s him all the way.

    2. Buchners not in the same class as Hartman, with Minchey & Carr on the way Buchners chances of playing time may be elsewhere. Buchner missing 3 of the last 4 years hurt his development, and 2 pick 6″s in the bowl game wiped out a easy win.

    3. I think Buchner will stick around and Rees will find ways to integrate him into the offense on certain situations. Will be the Swiss army knife player like Taysom Hill of the NO Saints. Having said that, excited about Hartman’s arrival and the fact he might draw a WR portal transfer into the offense.

  3. I think Tyree would really excel in the slot. He is quick and fast has good hands and is really good in space. Estime, Diggs. and also I think Jadarian Price if healthy maybe Notredames best back. He was really turning heads before his injury.

    1. Pete
      Add incoming Frosh Love. We’ve seen Frosh RBs all over college contribute.
      Weren’t able to hope for potential impact contributors on one team in one upcoming season at RB for how long? Recruiting matters, moreso for ND than most who aren’t hesitant to ‘follow the money” when it comes to pay-to-play, a. k. a. College football in the 21st century (and before) so needing a head coach and staff recruiters who will, (Fore!), and can connect with these young HS athletes before the money from others flow their way.. Next step is to develop this influx of top 300 rated athletes, the highest % incoming back to back ND recruiting these last two years. I know, (Brady, Montana, low picks in the draft wah! wah! Blah! blah!). Getting elite recruits matters. Ask Georgia, Bama, tOSU, and two of the best teams money has bought, $C and LSU. Catch 22 for ND staff is heightened expectations from a fan base that isn’t known to be patient. “Quite a catch, that catch 22”

  4. This is very exciting. I’d push Tyree to play slot considering we need some speed and he has receiver skills. Estime should be getting the majority of the carries over Diggs. He’s the better back period. This splitting carries evenly, especially between 3 freakin backs, is absolutely ridiculous. Estime should start, get the bulk, and Diggs should spell him when he’s tired. Hartman is going to eat defenses up considering our running game. I can’t wait!!

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