Notre Dame’s Path Forward Is Narrow But Clear
Now that the initial “shock” phase of the news that Notre Dame quarterback Tyler Buchner and others have decided to take their talents to locations outside South Bend is starting to subside, it’s time to talk about what comes next. It’s not an easy discussion, not a comfortable one, but I think the path just became clearer for Notre Dame even amidst some uncertainty.
There are layers to this dynamic. Short-term outlooks and big-picture ones. Risks & rewards. Pluses and minuses. Make no doubt about it one thing is clear. Marcus Freeman has his own vision for how he wants to build his team, roster, and his program. And his vision is vastly different from what his predecessor’s was.
Let’s take a look at Notre Dame’s new path to success.
While this is something I take no joy in reporting, I feel it’s quite obvious now that there was/is much more work to be done bolstering up the Notre Dame roster than anyone wanted there to be when Freeman took the helm. Both in terms of being based on what we physically saw on the field last year and or what Freeman’s ultimate vision is personnel-wise.
This is an ongoing project through traditional recruiting and portal surfing and one that Coach Freeman takes very seriously. Marcus leaves no stone unturned in his pursuit of top talent, and even in cases where he does not win a battle, the effort is never to blame. He’s relentless and demands the same from his staff. This will pay off big, sooner rather than later if Notre Dame has a strong 2023 campaign.
2023 Playing With Fire AGAIN
Notre Dame quarterback Sam Hartman (10) Wednesday, April 12, 2023, during spring football practice on the Notre Dame campus.
Nd Spring Football
The reason Notre Dame felt they needed to be in the QB portal market this cycle was clear. To avoid ending up in the vulnerable position they found themselves in last year where if the starter goes down with injury for any length of time the entire season is in peril.
In a very “Notre Damey” feeling bit of irony, the Irish are indeed in the exact same position as last year but with a different player, Sam Hartman. While most agreed that Hartman has earned the starting role with his Blue & Gold performance, Notre Dame fans loved the idea of Buchner as the backup.
With that no longer the dynamic, keeping Hartman upright is the most crucial piece of the 2023 season. Steve Angeli is still a relative unknown and Kenny Minchey has just arrived in town as an early enrollee. If either are needed for any amount of time as the starter, the worst luck has struck 2 years in a row.
2024 Is The Key Shift
In the best case scenario, Sam Hartman remains healthy next year and Notre Dame has a strong season. In the worst case scenario, the injury bug bites again, and the Irish struggle. Either way 2023 goes, 2024 is the key shift window that could determine how the Freeman era will be defined.
Entering 2024, Notre Dame will have a supremely important QB battle. Upperclassman Steve Angeli vs year 2 Minchey vs true freshman 5-star CJ Carr. Who wins this battle? Can the Irish finally start a young player and grow the team around him for a few years? This is the one QB path Notre Dame has recently been unable to take due to not recruiting players that could physically play this young and live to tell about it. That is starting to change.
The best and clearest path for long-term success would be for one of Minchey or Carr to exhibit enough elite traits that they can take the reigns young and become the leader of the team early maturing along with the new skill talent. I feel Notre Dame wants to stabilize this group and avoid more 1-year portal QBs if possible. I feel that this dynamic is a key one that could determine the long-term trajectory of the Freeman era. Someone must emerge.
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