Quarterback Succession and Rising Stars: Notre Dame’s 2024 Season Outlook

"Exploring Notre Dame's quarterback transition as Steve Angeli emerges as a frontrunner, while Riley Leonard battles injury, setting the stage for an exciting 2024 football season."

Quarterback Sam Hartman finished his college football career at Notre Dame, adding 2,689 passing yards, 24 touchdowns, and eight interceptions to his resume. Although most Irish fans would agree he left much to be desired, his replacement will certainly have big shoes to fill.

From the outside looking in, Duke transfer quarterback Riley Leonard appeared to be the leading candidate as the next starting quarterback at Notre Dame due to acclaim and experience. However, a follow-up surgery on his ankle (developing stress fracture) has kept him away from live action during spring camp, which could place him at second string by the start of the season. Currently, the quarterback who seems to have the most momentum is the one who started at quarterback in last year’s Sun Bowl for the Irish, Steve Angeli.

According to Notre Dame quarterbacks coach Gino Guidugli, Angeli is primed and ready to go. “Steve had a tremendous opportunity last year to learn underneath Sam (Hartman),” Guidugli stated. “He watched Sam’s routine, how he prepared himself each day for practice, and each week for games. And, you see Steve emulating that same routine that Sam had last year. I think it’s really paid off for him. I think he’s doing a great job leading the offense.”

“Every time I get in front of you guys (media members), I credit Sam for teaching me a lot of stuff that he’s learned,” Angeli said. “He’s a guy that played a lot of ball, and there’s a lot of stuff that he’s taught me, especially from a preparation aspect. So, throughout the whole season (last year), though I’m not the starter, I’m preparing like I am. Every practice that I’m going through, I’m preparing like I’m taking the one’s reps, and when my time came, I was able to capitalize on it.”

That mindset held true for the 2023 season, but the 2024 season appears to be more up for grabs, especially with Leonard’s ankle keeping him on the sideline. “The spring is always different,” Angeli admitted. “You have a new team with new guys coming in that you’re trying to build a rapport with and with new receivers and new guys that are stepping up. So, it’s really just getting a feel for everybody and starting a new identity for your new team.”

Coach Guidugli is not the only person who notices the progress that Angeli has made over the past few months. Another person with front-row seats to the action is the former Duke signal-caller himself, and it has him chomping at the bit to return to action in any possible way.

“This is the best my ankle has felt in about six months now,” Leonard expressed. “Being able to take mental reps at practice has been really cool for me. I’ve been in a similar offense in the past to this one, so through film study, I think I’ll be able to fit right into this offense. As long as I can continue to build chemistry off the field with the guys and whenever we get back here in the summer, hopefully, I can utilize that time to throw to the receivers a little more and get more reps with those guys.”

Leonard’s relentless eagerness to learn and gel with his new team hasn’t gone unnoticed. It’s caught the attention of not only Guidugli but also Irish head coach Marcus Freeman, which could go a long way for Leonard when it comes time for him to name the next starting quarterback.

“He’s done a great job with anything he can do,” Guidugli stated. “He’s going to get in there. So, the walkthroughs, the blitz pickups, and all the things that his limitations allow him to do, he’s going to get in there and do.

“This was his idea,” head coach Freeman confirmed. “He was going to challenge himself to have one hundred percent focus on every rep (during this past weekend’s jersey scrimmage). He had the headset on and knew every call that was going in, and he stepped through every single one. That’s who he’s been. Today we didn’t want to let him go (live action), so for him to get work like that, it’s just a reflection of who he is. That’s going to make him better, and that was my challenge as a head coach to him. Hey, what can you do? Although you’re physically not practicing on Saturday, what can you do to get better? And today he showed a chance to do that.”

In seven games last season at Duke, Leonard finished with 1,102 yards passing, three touchdowns, and three interceptions. He also rushed for 352 yards, including four touchdowns. He missed all of November due to injury.

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