Sam Hartman at a recent ND workout (Photo: Chad Ryan)

The 2023 Blue-Gold game will be played in Notre Dame Stadium this Saturday, April 22 at 2:00 PM.

This year’s game will feature the first public display of transfer portal quarterback Sam Hartman. Hartman, who threw 110 touchdown passes and for12,967 yards at Wake Forest decided to bypass the NFL draft and take advantage of a sixth “pandemic” season of eligibility. Many pundits had Hartman rated as the #1 player available in the portal after the 2022 season. He is expected to allow the Irish to open up their passing game with more precision and deep balls.

Hartman is far from alone in the Notre Dame quarterback room. Gator Bowl MVP Tyler Buchner returns and by all reports has had an excellent spring. The spring game should also feature the debut of highly touted early entry freshman Kenny Minchey. Steve Angeli, who scrambled into the end zone from 10 yards out to win the game for the Gold team in 2022, 13-10, is also back.

The hoped for development of the ND passing game under Hartman would nicely compliment an expected strong ground game that will feature returning stars, Audric Estime and Logan Diggs.

Estime “the Baby Bus”, became known for a powerful north-south running style during the 2022 season when he averaged 5.9 yards per carry, amassed 1055 yards running and receiving and scored 12 total TDs. Logan Diggs also had a big 2022 with a 5.0 yard average, 1033 combined rushing and receiving yards and 6 TDs.

Chris Tyree who also contributed in 2022 to the Irish ground attack with 444 yards and 3 TDs, looks to headed for a new role for 2023. Tyree has been working extensively as a slot receiver this spring.

One of the stars from last year’s Blue Gold scrimmage, Jadarian Price missed the 2022 season with a torn achilles, is expected to add depth. The Irish will also in 2023 look to red shirt freshman Gi’Bran Payne and Jerimayah Love. Love will arrive in the fall and was #5 rated running back prospect nationally (247 Sports) in ND’s latest recruiting class.

Of course it is the offensive line that must be strong if anything is going to work in either the ground game or the passing game. Returning are two outstanding tackles in Joe Alt and Blake Fisher and Zeke Correll at center. Gone are guards Josh Lugg and Jarrett Patterson. Graduate senior Andrew Kristofic, who has started eight games over the last couple of years and Billy Schrauth during the Spring have looked to be the heirs apparent to the open guard slots. Schrauth is entering his second year in South Bend and red shirted last season. The Spring game presents a valuable opportunity for the unit to develop continuity.

The Blue Gold game will also give second year head coach Marcus Freeman the opportunity to break in a new offensive staff’s game operation. During the off-season the offensive coaching staff was transformed. 2022 tight end’s coach Gerad Parker takes over as offensive coordinator for Tommy Rees, and Geno Guidugli moves over from Cincinnati/Wisconsin as quarterback’s coach. Veteran offensive line coach Joe Rudolph, most recently of Virginia Tech completes the offensive side coaching transformation. He takes over the offensive line duties from Harry Hiestand.

Nothing has changed on defensive coordinator Al Golden’s staff, but the Irish will need to find a way to replace vyper end Isiah Foskey’s school record 26.5 sacks as well as the losses of twin brother defensive lineman Jayson and Justin Ademola.

Three defenders who will have eyes on them Saturday and should be keys to the 2023 Irish defense will be defensive ends Rylie Mills and Jordan Botelho and linebacker Marist Liufau. Liufau led the 2022 defense in snaps played. Mills and Botelho have flashed frequently during their careers and will be counted on to become key components of a revamped Irish pass rush.

To shore up the back end of the defense where the Irish lost one year transfer player Brandon Joseph and struck out in their most recent recruiting class, the Irish have brought in safety Thomas Harper from Oklahoma State. Harper known for his physical style of play, is expected to primarily see action as a nickel back, a position which out of eligibility Tariq Bracy manned exceptionally well last season. Harper who underwent shoulder surgery last year, is not likely to see action in the public scrimmage.

The Blue Gold Scrimmage has a long history

The Blue-Gold game tradition started in 1929 when Knute Rockne, ever the showman, was looking for a way to promote his team and to make the end of spring football practice a bit more interesting for his players. He hit on the idea of conducting a scrimmage between his returning players against the outgoing seniors who would be soon graduating, along with a few other recent grads.

Rockne’s orgianl concept continued until 1937, when under Coach Elmer Leyden many former players returned to honor former player and Coach Johnny O’Brian. O’Brian had tragically died in an auto accident on March 12, 1937. The game that year took on the moniker “the old-timers game”, and that spring in a match that included participation by the Four Horseman and many others, the varsity defeated the “old-timers” 7-6.

The old-timers format stayed in place for many years.

Ara Parseghian was not a big fan of the format because he felt it did not present ideal competition for his team. In fact in the three games played from ’65-’67, the varsity ran up large margins and was not scored upon. The last “old-timers” game was played in 1967, and was actually carried on TV nationally by ABC opposite the Kentucky Derby. The varsity won that day by a score of 39-0. In the 37 year history of the “old-timers’ format, the varsity won 30 times.

The game took on the present format of intra-squad scrimmage and the name “Blue Gold Game” in 1968. Various scoring systems and roster allocations have been used since.

But the tradition of legions of faithful Fighting Irish Football fans on an early spring day looking for a glimpse of what is to come in the Fall, has persevered. This year’s acquisition of Sam Hartman, a proven top level quarterback talent, adds significant interest to the game.

The 2023 Blue Gold game will kickoff at 2:00 PM, Saturday April 22. TV coverage will be on Peacock the NBC owned streaming service. Tickets starting at $8 will be available at the stadium or in advance by clicking here.

ByPhil Houk

For over 25 years, bringing you the glory of Notre Dame football.

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