The transfer portal is up and running in NCAA football, with Notre Dame already seeing a trio of players enter it: wide receiver Chris Tyree, center Zeke Correll and defensive end Nana Osafo-Mensah. While the Irish have the depth to get past their departures, replacements could very well be found through the portal.
This article looks at some of the possible quarterback candidates who Notre Dame might pursue in the weeks ahead. Head coach Marcus Freeman has expressed support in the past for Steve Angeli to take over behind center when Sam Hartman’s brief Notre Dame career comes to an end. Yet, given the right situation, Freeman may look to offer Angeli as well as Kenny Minchey and C.J. Carr a stiff challenge for the starting job by reining in a quality signal-caller.
Below are some of the top quarterbacks who are or may be available:
Will Howard, Kansas State
Howard just ended his fourth season with the Wildcats, finishing with his best year yet by completing 219 of 357 passes for 2,643 yards and 24 touchdown passes. He stands 6-foot-4 and does have mobility, so he could be a candidate. This past season, he threw 10 interceptions, though compared to his touchdown output, his ratio was an upgrade from when he started out at the school.
Facing Texas earlier this month, Howard nearly led the Wildcats to a huge road upset against Texas before falling 33-30 in overtime. Kansas State trailed 27-7 before tying the game with a last-second regulation field goal. He threw for a season-best 327 yards and four touchdowns. That ability to thrive in a big-game atmosphere may make him a top candidate for Freeman.
Will Rogers, Mississippi State
Even more prolific than Howard, Rogers threw for over 12,000 yards during his four seasons with the Bulldogs. However, a change in the head coaching position has Rogers looking elsewhere. This season, he dealt with injuries and was limited to eight games. In those contests, he threw for 1,626 yards and 12 touchdowns with four pass attempts picked off.
It was during the 2021 and 2022 seasons that Rogers flourished and launched the ball with abandon. In those campaigns, he completed 920 of his 1,293 pass attempts for 8,713 yards. Perhaps even more impressive were his 71 touchdowns while throwing only 17 interceptions. Numbers like that will have plenty of schools looking to add him. One factor in Notre Dame’s favor is its collection of talented young receivers.
Tyler Van Dyke, Miami
Van Dyke threw for nearly 7,500 yards in his three seasons as a starter with the Hurricanes. His demotion in the latter part of the 2023 campaign is likely a key reason why he’s looking elsewhere. Part of the presumed reason for that status was the fact that despite throwing for 2,703 yards and 19 touchdowns, he also had 12 picks. The latter number was double his six interceptions in 2021 when he put up similar numbers and also tossed for 25 touchdowns.
The numbers put up by Van Dyke this year came under his third different offensive coordinator at Miami. That lack of stability can cause havoc with any signal-caller. He’s got experience and a strong arm, with the mobility to take off. However, he has been known to force passes or be more aggressive than necessary. Still, if he’s interested in the Irish, Freeman may be willing to accept those flaws.
Riley Leonard, Duke
Leonard hasn’t officially entered the portal but seems like a strong candidate after Blue Devils’ head coach Mike Elko was hired to replace Jimbo Fisher at Texas A&M. Elko, Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator in 2017, could provide insight into life under the Golden Dome. Yet, given Leonard’s production, Elko seems more likely to try and entice him to join the Aggies’ squad.
Marcus Freeman and his staff know what Leonard can do, being witnesses to the near-upset earlier this season. Leonard’s mobility is a key part of his game and had been held in check during the early part of the contest. Yet, by the time the game ended, he’d run for 88 yards. Leonard has the size and mobility to thrive with the Irish, but whether he wants to follow in Sam Hartman’s footsteps remains to be seen.
Cameron Ward, Washington State
Ward is another quarterback who hasn’t indicated that he plans on transferring. However, if he does, a furious battle could conceivably depend upon the potential income he can receive from NIL’s. By joining the Irish, he would arrive at arguably the most high-profile football program in the country, thereby enhancing his name recognition.
A chief reason why Ward would be so avidly sought by schools is his numbers, which include just over 7,000 passing yards in two seasons. Adding to that are his 48 touchdowns, compared to only 16 interceptions on 982 pass attempts. Outside of potential financial aspects, one additional reason why Ward could look elsewhere is the pending implosion of the PAC-12 and Washington State’s uncertain status.