Blue and Gold Illustrated

January 2024

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

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4 JANUARY 2024 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED W ith the transfer portal open as of Dec. 4, and a record number of players stuffing into it, silly season is in full throttle, and the time is here to peek ahead into what the 2024 Fighting Irish roster and lineup will look like, especially at quarterback. Marcus Freeman has made it no secret that he wants and needs four scholar- ship quarterbacks on his roster, mainly for numbers protection. At the moment, the Irish head coach has three: rising junior Steve Angeli, sophomore-to-be Kenny Minchey and incoming freshman CJ Carr. Of that trio of signal-callers, Angeli is the only one with tangible college experience, and that isn't saying much. Mainly in mop-up duty, Angeli ap- peared in nine games during his first two seasons with the Irish and went 19-of-25 passing for 272 yards with 4 touchdowns and 1 interception. That's about one game's worth of production for current Irish graduate student quarterback Sam Hartman. And, that inexperience is why Duke quarterback Riley Leonard is being men- tioned as the next transfer target for Notre Dame to bring in and presumably start for the Irish in 2024, if rumor meets reality. Leonard announced his portal plans Nov. 29. According to the On3 transfer tracker, Leonard is the second-highest- rated quarterback in the portal, behind only senior Dillon Gabriel of Oklahoma. Hartman ranked No. 1 among portal quarterbacks in 2023, for comparison. Given the success, exposure and no- toriety that Hartman gained in his one season here, expect Leonard to take a serious look at the Fighting Irish to boost both his profile and draft stock. For now, Freeman is leaving all op- tions open, while throwing his support at the guys already on his roster. "It isn't that I don't have a belief in the guys we have here," Freeman said. "I have a strong belief in Steve [Angeli] and Kenny [Minchey]." But is there enough data for the Irish head man to sincerely trust either of those inexperienced signal-callers with an accomplished player such as Leonard available? Probably not. Finding and starting a portal quar- terback is not an unusual practice. In fact, it's quickly becoming the preferred method. Look around the country and many of the top college programs fea- ture a transfer signal-caller. Heisman hopefuls Michael Penix Jr. at Washington transferred from Indiana, Oregon's Bo Nix transferred from Au- burn, and LSU's Jayden Daniels trans- ferred from Arizona State, just to name three portal headliners, each of whom is a Heisman Trophy finalist. But this annual exodus also creates a turbulent situation in locker rooms and coaching offices while quarterbacks stuff the portal at a disproportionate rate compared to the other position groups. Following the 2022 season, more than 150 quarterbacks entered the portal, in- cluding two — junior Drew Pyne and sophomore Tyler Buchner — from Notre Dame. And that number of outgoing Irish QB transfers will continue to grow if the Irish coaches aren't willing to trust or give any of its quarterback recruits a realistic chance to start, beyond pre- season lip service. It's a slippery slope. Coaches obviously want to develop the quarterbacks they recruited. But they're also reluctant to give an inex- perienced signal-caller meaningful reps for fear of a rookie mistake in a big game. Bringing in a veteran helps ease those concerns, but it also demonstrates a lack of confidence that stunts the growth of the younger guys and often drives them out the door. When Notre Dame brings in Leonard or another elite transfer quarterback, it's reasonable to expect Angeli to chase greener pastures in the same way Pyne and Buchner did last year when it became clear neither was going to earn opening-day starting duties. With no end in sight of Notre Dame bringing in one-hit wonders as their starting quarterback each season, why would a recruit even want to come here? "I feel really good about the future of our program at the quarterback position with the guys coming in, with the guys we have here," Freeman reiterated. But will those guys even stick around if another veteran transfer is brought in from the portal for the third time in four seasons to start and run the Irish offense? Perhaps. But with feelings easily hurt at this position and Irish quarterbacks trans- ferring away at an alarming rate, it's easy to forecast that Notre Dame will have another single-season graduate transfer quarterback in 2024 and have at least one quarterback transfer out of the program. It's a rinse-and-repeat pattern that Irish fans may need to get used to for many years to follow, like it or not, in this new era of college football free agency. ✦ Sophomore Steve Angeli is the most experienced quarterback returning on the Irish roster. In the past two seasons, he is 19-of-25 passing for 272 yards with 4 touchdowns and 1 interception during mop-up duty. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER Finding A 2024 Quarterback: Roster Or Portal? UPON FURTHER REVIEW TODD D. BURLAGE Todd D. Burlage has been a writer for Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 2005. He can be reached at

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