Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2023

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

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26 PRESEASON 2023 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY TYLER HORKA I t's difficult to imagine a team can lose a three-year veteran offensive coordinator and replace him with an OC who does not have a full season as a primary play caller under his belt and feel far more optimistic about the team's outlook on offense now than it did the year prior, but that's right where Notre Dame seems to be in fall camp 2023. Why? Sam Hartman. That's why. Any difficulties Hartman seemed to have picking up new coordinator Gerad Parker's offense in the spring did not linger into the fall. As emphatically as one can in a spring game, Hartman showed the country any spring practice struggles — like com- pleting only 3 of 14 passes by Blue & Gold Illustrated's count in 11-on-11 periods of practice April 1 — were just transitional growing pains by connecting on 13 of 16 throws for 189 yards with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions in less than one half of work in the Blue-Gold Game April 23. Still, we needed to see much more than a few fancy stats and a baker's dozen of on-target throws in a glorified scrimmage to feel confident going into Hartman's one and only season in a Notre Dame uniform. In the first two weeks of fall camp, he put it all on display. Hartman ran around the practice field with more intentionality than he did four months ago. His timing with wide receivers was much better. His under- standing of Parker's offensive schemes was much more thorough. He completed back-shoulder beauties to junior Jayden Thomas and sophomore Tobias Mer- riweather with regularity. Four of the 11 incomplete passes on April 1 were in- tended for senior wideout Chris Tyree. The rapport between those two has blossomed tremendously since then. Believe it or not, even a sixth-year, griz- zly veteran like Hartman needed a sum- mer to decompress, develop chemistry and get his mind right before truly getting into the grind of preparing for a season. Hartman finally feels comfortable in South Bend. "It's just one of those things where you're constantly growing," he said. "Constantly learning. I guess I'm set- tled in, but I think I'm always learning." THE STRUCTURE Parker is always learning, too. We won't fully know just what it is that he's learned until Notre Dame takes on Navy on Aug. 26. There isn't a book out on Parker like there was on Tommy Rees after three seasons at the controls of the Notre Dame offense. What we do know is Parker has Hart- man, and he'd be a fool not to exhaust what he has in one of the most experi- enced, prolific quarterbacks in the sport. "We're going to play to our strengths and play to our quarterback's strengths," Parker said. "[Downfield passing] is cer- tainly something that he does very well, and it gives everybody confidence." Even with Hartman at the controls, there is viability in this Notre Dame of- fense starting everything up front with the offensive line and running game. Two-fifths of the offensive line is com- prised of next-level tackle prospects in juniors Joe Alt and Blake Fisher. Alt is already an all-everything player, widely deemed the best tackle in the country, and Notre Dame offensive coordinator Gerad Parker is facing the biggest season of his career as a full-time play caller for the first time. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER STILL SEARCHING Notre Dame's offense has plenty of stable pieces, but there are parts of it that are not quite set in stone

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