Sam Hartman had a superb Notre Dame debut Saturday. Photo: Chad Ryan.

If Sam Hartman needed to pass any kind of a test Saturday with typically skeptical ND fans, he did so with flying (or is that “passing”?) colors.

13-16, 189 yards, 2 TDs and he picked up a third TD on a nifty keeper option on a goal line play. He pushed the ball deep, he hit tight windows, he was decisive and was in charge. He gave his suddenly blossoming group of receivers, chances to make plays.

Cue back up Steve Angeli, because with five minutes left in the first half, Hartman’s day was done.

What a difference a year makes.

Last year the Irish were short handed on Blue-Gold day as Tyler Buchner sat out the game with an ankle sprain and Drew Pyne was pushed into the starting role… for both sides. The only scholarship alternative the Irish had in 2022 was early entry freshman Steve Angeli. That combination ended up serving as the ND depth chart for most of the 2022 season after Buchner went down in the second game last season.

Now, after admirably leading ND to an 8-2 record, Pyne has transferred to Arizona St., but the Notre Dame quarterback room has grown.

By leaps and bounds.

First it was the flipping from Pittsburgh of four star prospect Kenny Minchey last November. Early enrollee Minchey is loaded with potential and is known for his accuracy.

But then the Irish scored the biggest coup. Hartman, who had been pegged the #1 player nationally in the transfer portal committed to ND, shortly after the Gator Bowl.

Hartman brought the stature that comes with 110 collegiate touchdown passes and 13,000 yards through the air. In Hartman the Irish had secured a one year QB room upgrade to suddenly, stellar. With Minchey the upgrade potentially got multiple years of stability. Solid sophomore Steve Angeli provides even more.

That stability will be dialed in even stronger with the expected appearance in 2024 of phenom CJ Carr. Carr’s commitment to ND looks to be about as solid as any in this day and age of flips, flops and NIL. He is rated as a high four star, and is the #5 overall quarterback in the 2024 class

Oh, and then there’s this guy by the name of Buchner. By all accounts, Tyler Buchner has had a strong spring, building on his MVP performance in the Gator Bowl. His performance on Saturday was not statistically impressive but he had some moments and he was operating behind a patchwork offensive line. Despite a long day for Buchner, Marcus Freeman remains convinced that he has two viable quarterbacks, and is not to ready name his starter just yet. “You can’t determine a winner or a loser based off one practice,” Freeman said postgame.

Hartman, Buchner, Angeli, Minchey, CJ Carr.

In spite of a thinner than thin QB room, Notre Dame managed a 9-4 season in Marcus Freeman’s debut season. Not good enough. In fact far from it. And in this day and age, quarterbacks transfer. Loyalty has become old school. So for his encore season, Freeman focused on making certain that “thin QB room” will not be a 2023 Fighting Irish a topic of conversation.

Hartman, Buchner, Angeli, Minchey, CJ Carr.

“Strong quarterback room”, looks to be the more likely topic.

ByPhil Houk

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

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