Notre Dame Football Spring ’24 Position Breakdown: Quarterbacks

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish began their 2024 edition of spring practice on March 7, an annual rite that will conclude with the Blue-Gold matchup on April 20. Irish head coach Marcus Freeman is working with some new members of his staff and will get a look at a combination of returnees and newcomers. In the latter category, some transfers and early enrollees figure to catch his eye, starting at the quarterback position.


This position will get a close look due to the departure of Sam Hartman, who arrived for one final collegiate year last season. Outside of the struggles he had against Louisville and Clemson, Hartman provided Notre Dame with the type of leadership that made the decision to bring him to the Golden Dome a wise one.

Hartman opted out of the Irish’s Sun Bowl matchup to start preparing for next month’s NFL Draft. Where he ends up and how early he gets selected right now remains a mystery. Whether he can break through the recent run of former Notre Dame signal callers whose careers have stalled out at the pro level will be something to ponder over the next few years.


Knowing that Hartman was on borrowed time with the Irish, Freeman looked into the transfer portal and emerged with former Duke quarterback Riley Leonard. It was Leonard who nearly pulled off an upset win of Notre Dame last year, throwing for 134 yards and one score while also rushing for 88 yards.

In that Notre Dame-Duke contest, Leonard suffered a high ankle sprain that was later followed by a season-ending toe injury one month later. He underwent ankle surgery in January but is already back in action and ready to shake off the rust as he looks to bond with new offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock.

An intriguing early enrollee who will get a chance to show off his talents this spring is C. J. Carr. The true freshman was eager enough to get going that he managed to take part in some of the Irish’s Sun Bowl practices after obtaining a waiver. He’s the grandson of former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr and, not surprisingly, has a high football intellect to go along with good size and a strong arm.

A Look Back and Forward

In 2023, Hartman was the beneficiary of mostly strong play on the offensive line for much of the season and ended up throwing for 2,689 yards, 24 touchdowns. He also threw eight interceptions, some in connection with line breakdowns but generally didn’t try to force the ball.

Hartman’s mobility turned out to be impressive, with a clutch fourth-down run on Notre Dame’s final drive helping set up the game-winning score. He also managed to scamper for 68 yards in the Clemson loss. However, his primary focus during the course of last season was directed at collecting yardage through the air amid costly injuries to his receiving corps.

After Duke’s season ended last year Leonard very easily could have followed his head coach and former Irish assistant, Mike Elko, to Texas A&M. Instead, he cast his lot with Freeman, who despite the signal-calling talent on the depth chart, will undoubtedly put Notre Dame’s 2024 hopes in Leonard’s hands.

During his collegiate career, Leonard has thrown for over 4,4450 yards and 24 scores, the bulk of those touchdown passes coming during a strong 2022 campaign. He’s also rushed for over 1,200 yards and 19 touchdowns and averaged 5.3 yards on each of his carries.

Leonard’s running ability will make for some dramatic moments this fall and may help ease the transition of a running game that no longer has the luxury of Audric Estime bulling his way through the line. He’s a solid athlete who very easily could have been making his mark on the basketball court had different choices been made.

Barring another injury to Leonard, Steve Angeli will once again see most of his 2024 action in low-pressure mop-up situations. Hartman’s opt-out did allow for Angeli to take the reins in the Sun Bowl, where he threw for 232 yards and three touchdowns in the 40-8 rout of Oregon State. One concern in the portal era is that Angeli could look elsewhere after this season if he’s not seen as the Irish’s quarterback of the future.

One other quarterback candidate of note is Kenny Minchey, who was redshirted last season. Last season, Freeman spoke highly of Minchey’s work in practices, though whether that ever translates into moving up the depth chart. The spring battle between Minchey and Carr looks to offer some intrigue.

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