Fighting Irish Land Their Portal QB: Sam Hartman Commits to Notre Dame

Marcus Freeman and Tommy Rees were looking to upgrade their quarterback room and accomplished that by landing the best QB in the transfer portal.

Notre Dame secured its biggest win of the transfer portal era on Thursday when Sam Hartman, the all-time leader in touchdown passes in ACC history, committed to Notre Dame a week after entering the portal. Notre Dame made it known they were in the market for a portal quarterback, and they ended up with the best one available this year.

It was no secret that Notre Dame would be in the portal market at quarterback throughout the season, but Marcus Freeman confirmed it in early December after Drew Pyne decided to enter the portal himself before Notre Dame’s bowl. Freeman said then that he told Pyne Notre Dame would pursue a portal quarterback. Not only did they pursue one, but they also landed the best available.

Sam Hartman spent the last five seasons at Wake Forest throwing 110 touchdowns and 12,967 yards while completing under 60% of his passes on 1,597 attempts. He added another 17 touchdowns and 855 yards rushing. In 2022 alone, Hartman threw for 38 touchdowns and 3,701 yards. As a team, Notre Dame threw for 2,693 yards and 25 touchdowns.

Hartman had one of the best games of his life this season against a foe he will see next season at Notre Dame as well – Clemson. Against the Tigers, Hartman threw 6 touchdowns and 337 yards with 0 interceptions while completing 69% of his passes in a 51-45 loss in double OT. The only opponent to really get the best of Hartman this year was Louisville, who picked him off three times in Wake Forest’s loss to the Cardinals. He’ll get a chance for revenge next season when Notre Dame travels to Louisville.

2023 could be a revenge tour for Hartman. Wake Forest was 0-4 in games against ACC teams that appear on Notre Dame’s 2023 schedule. Hartman threw 12 touchdowns to 7 interceptions in those contests while averaging 338 yards passing per game. He’ll be playing behind a much better offensive line at Notre Dame with a much better rushing game.

Hartman played in five seasons at Wake Forest but is taking advantage of the free COVID year in 2020. Coincidentally enough, Hartman would have faced Notre Dame that year, but the game ended up being canceled because of a COVID outbreak on the Notre Dame roster, and it was never rescheduled. Hartman did face the Irish once in his career – the 2018 game that was also the first career start for Ian Book at Notre Dame. It’s pretty incredible to think that Hartman played in the same game in which Book made his first start for Notre Dame and will now play for the Irish next season since that feels so long ago.

Some have pointed to the “slow mesh” that Wake Forest utilized as a reason for some of Hartman’s success, but the majority of the time Hartman has thrown, it has not been on a slow mesh concept. For example, of Hartman’s 504 dropbacks this season, 308 came on plays without any play-action at all. On those plays, Hartman completed 63.3% of his passes – compared to 61.9% on play-action – while throwing for 25 of his 38 touchdowns to just 7 interceptions.

At Notre Dame, Hartman will be looking to enhance his NFL Draft stock by playing for a premier program. If he puts up the same numbers for the Irish that he did at Wake Forest, both he and Notre Dame fans will be thrilled.

Notre Dame has struggled to recruit the quarterback position in recent years, forcing the Irish into the portal two years ago as well when they landed Jack Coan from Wisconsin. Tyler Buchner was considered the heir-apparent at Notre Dame but suffered his third significant injury in his young career in week two before returning for the Gator Bowl victory over South Carolina. Drew Pyne filled in admirably throughout the season, but the Irish offense was limited in what it could do with Pyne running the offense.

One of those significant limitations was downfield passing. Pyne attempted just 26 passes of 20+ yards this season. Sam Hartman completed 41 passes of 20+ yards on 93 attempts, with 16 of his touchdowns being on attempts of 20+ yards. Another area that Hartman stands out is his performance when blitzed. PFF graded Hartman out at 90.4 when blitzed compared to 60.8 for Pyne.

With Hartman on board, Notre Dame’s quarterback room, as of now, includes Hartman, Buchner, Steve Angelli, Kenny Minchey, and Ronnie Powlus. Buchner played well in the Gator Bowl, albeit with three interceptions, showing both his promise and all of the growth needed for him to reach his ceiling. Playing behind a play like Hartman for a year could help unlock more of that potential.

Hartman will enroll at Notre Dame later this month and participate in spring practice.

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