The start of the 2023 season for Notre Dame means having a new quarterback in place, courtesy of the transfer portal. That signal-caller is Sam Hartman, who arrived after spending the past five years at Wake Forest. Hartman is tasked with trying to deliver a strong season that will help the Irish battle for an NCAA playoff berth.
Bringing with him a strong resume, especially over the previous two seasons, Hartman is a player who doesn’t make too many mistakes and can get the ball in the end zone. The real test for him will come in Notre Dame’s most pivotal regular season contests against Ohio State, Southern Cal and Clemson.
Changes and Development
Hartman made a commitment to Wake Forest prior to his junior year in high school. Over his final three seasons at that level, he threw for more than 9,000 yards and 98 touchdowns. Prior to that final year, the North Carolina native mirrored his move to the Irish by transferring schools.
Upon arrival at Wake, he made history by becoming the first Demon Deacon true freshman quarterback to start in his debut. In his nine games in 2018, he threw for two or more touchdowns in seven contests and threw for just under 2,000 yards. His season came to an abrupt end when he suffered a leg injury during a loss to Syracuse.
Hartman spent the majority of the 2019 season in a reserve capacity but then regained the job the following year. In his nine games that year, he continued to avoid mistakes by throwing only five interceptions among his 273 pass attempts and ended up throwing for more than 2,000 yards for the first time at Wake.
That milestone became an afterthought over the next two seasons, with Hartman throwing for a total of nearly 8,000 yards and putting the ball in the air nearly 900 times. Despite that prolific amount of passing, Hartman threw just 26 interceptions and found the end zone 77 times.
The 24-year-old Hartman will have plenty of talented players to throw to this season, even if their collective body of work is modest at best. Right now, the expected starting wideouts consist of Tobias Merriweather, Jayden Thomas and converted running back Chris Tyree, with Merriweather entering the year with just a single career grab.
That catch for Merriweather did come on a 41-yard touchdown, so he could be the deep threat that Hartman needs to thrive. If not, Thomas’ knack for the clutch grab offers him that opportunity. Tyree’s 56 career catches stamp him as the most experienced returning receiver, but whether or not he can adapt to his new role is a question waiting to be answered.
Hartman also won’t have the luxury of throwing to Michael Mayer, which means integrating new tight ends into the passing attack. Another trio of question marks makes up this unit, with Mitchell Evans having the most experience. However, sophomore Holden Staes could be in a position to take control of the position, while Eli Raridon’s past knee injuries are a cause for concern.
During Hartman’s time at Wake, he used his running backs as passing options on a regular basis. Those short tosses, in part, help explain his accuracy numbers. Yet, they also indicate that players like Audric Estime and his fellow running backs should expect to have more passes thrown their way in 2023.
Getting Into Position
Hartman is hoping that a huge final year at the collegiate level puts the Irish in postseason playoff contention. On a personal level, he’s also well aware that his performance this season will have an impact on his NFL draft prospects, with his ability to deliver on the run one of his assets.
The struggles of a Notre Dame quarterback to make it at the next level have been in evidence for quite a while. Steve Buerlein and Rick Mirer are really the only Irish signal-callers with an extended NFL career since the departure of Joe Montana. That simple fact could give pause to those offering lofty hopes for Hartman.
Still, Hartman does have a strong arm and has managed to bounce back from setbacks along the way. Prior to last season, he underwent surgery to remove a rib in order to deal with a potentially serious blood clot. He showed no ill effects once he got back on the field, so Notre Dame fans figure to be in for a pass-happy season.
Of course, Hartman’s performance in the aforementioned trio of big games will ultimately play a key role in shaping his brief legacy with the Irish. Notre Dame fans haven’t seen too many victories against top-notch opponents for quite a while, with Hartman now in a position to change that narrative.