Blue and Gold Illustrated

April 2023

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 21 of 55

22 APRIL 2023 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY TYLER HORKA M arcus Freeman didn't know how to divvy up his precious seconds at a Notre Dame football practice at this time last year. Heck, he admitted to hardly even knowing where to stand during them. What a difference 365 days makes. Freeman has the grit and grind of a 12-game regular season tucked away in his memory bank. He was the head coach for another set of bowl practices, too, and those had to have operated much more smoothly than the first ones he conducted within days of earning the title of "Notre Dame football head coach" in December 2021. The result was better, too; Notre Dame beat South Carolina in the Tax-Slayer Gator Bowl to make the previous season's Fiesta Bowl loss to Oklahoma State a distant memory. All of the blinding glitz and glamor that goes with doing things for the first time at a prestigious program is gone. Freeman traded it in for a few more gray hairs in his beard, but that's probably fine by him if it means he has officially settled into the reality of being the man in charge. The trade also included a wealth of knowledge. There are certain objectives every head coach wishes to accomplish in spring practices. Freeman will share some of those with the media when his team starts its sessions March 22. Maybe he'll keep some close to the vest, too, but there are a multitude of story- lines hiding in plain sight. Here are four things to watch for dur- ing Notre Dame's 2023 spring practices. SAM HARTMAN'S DEBUT The jersey edits are cool. The photo- shoot snapshots in the actual blue-and- gold threads are even cooler. But nothing comes close to the reality of putting on a helmet and pads and getting on the field. It's been months since Sam Hartman announced his transfer from Wake For- est to Notre Dame. Now he finally steps between the white lines as the Fighting Irish's likely 2023 starter. Spring ball is an important phase in getting to that point. Chemistry gets cre- ated. Favorite targets are developed. The Notre Dame coaching staff gets to cri- tique Hartman, take notes on him in per- son and come to a consensus on what he does well and what he needs to do better. There is a reason most graduate trans- fers make a strong push to enroll at their new destination before the summer. The month-long stretch of practices from March 22 to April 22, when the Blue- Gold Game will be played, might be the second-most important 30 days between now and Aug. 26 for Hartman. It's a seg- ment of the schedule that slots second to only fall camp in that regard. That's when 11th-hour adjustments and improve- ments could set the stage for what's to come on fall Saturdays. There is more of a margin for error in March and April. Like it was when Jack Coan came to Notre Dame from Wisconsin in 2021, this edition of Irish spring practices is headline-dominated by the signal- caller who projects as QB1 for the up- coming season. Reporters still have not BEEN THERE, DONE THAT Marcus Freeman heads into his second spring practice schedule with a rich understanding of what the Irish need to achieve 2023 SPRING FOOTBALL OVERVIEW

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