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Week 4 Notre Dame football grades: Offense continues to shine

| Wednesday, September 20, 2023

They started the game with a four-play, 94-yard touchdown drive and that ended with a 75-yard touchdown from graduate student Sam Hartman to sophomore Tobias Merriweather. That was just the beginning for the Notre Dame offense against Central Michigan.

A big priority in football is consistency. You have to be able to show up every week and execute and deliver at your best. Well, this Irish offense has been showing a lot of consistency lately. Coming off a hard-fought win against NC State and the wins against TSU and Navy, this Irish offense has found its groove and its players. Coach Marcus Freeman has established so much trust in Sam Hartman leading this team and his supporting cast has been there every step of the way. This offensive unit is coming into every week hungry and ready to take on their opponent, not caring who or what is in front of them.

Here is a breakdown of how each offensive position group performed during the 41-17 win over Central Michigan at home.


Arianna Denning | The Observer
Graduate transfer quarterback Sam Hartman ahead of Notre Dame’s 45-24 win over the NC State Wolfpack.

Graduate student Sam Hartman has this Irish offense shining week in and week out. He is continuing to play at an elite level with composure, and he’s getting all of his guys involved out on the field. 

Hartman opened the game with the aforementioned 75-yard score to Merriweather. It was one of four deep passes that Hartman completed this game, truly showing his astute vision and arm talent. Hartman finished with 330 yards, three touchdowns through the air and one on the ground.

He also spread the ball, connecting with eight different receivers throughout the game. His veteran presence was obvious, showing poise in the pocket, directing receivers and exhibiting his impressive arm. 

Hartman has shown that he believes in his guys and trusts them to go make a play. That is what you are looking for in not only a starting quarterback but a leader. Hartman has this Irish offense headed in the right direction.

Weekly Grade: A+; Season Grade: A+

Running Backs

Notre Dame offense has one of the deepest and best running back rooms in the country. Each week these running backs come out the gate rushing with force and power, adding another dangerous element to this Irish offense. 

The leader of the pack is junior Audric Estime. He had 20 carries with 176 yards and one touchdown against the Chippewas. Estime continues to prove why is not only one of the best running backs in the nation but a great power back. His ability to power through defenders and switch gears is special. 

Sophomores Jadarian Price and Gi’Bran Payne also contributed to this dynamic run game, providing electric speed and quickness to this high-flying offense. This game showed this running back group won’t slow down for anyone and that they can carry momentum week to week.

Weekly Grade: A; Season Grade: A-

Wide Receivers

This wide receiver group has started to turn heads, and they established themselves in this game. So far throughout the season, these receivers were quietly creeping up showing glimpses of what they can do. Well, this game showed what they were made of, and it got the offense jumping.

Things started off great in the offense with Merriweather’s long score. He finished the game with 91 yards. Senior Chris Tyree, who switched from running back to wide receiver, also added a significant contribution, finishing the game with 88 yards and a touchdown. 

Junior Jayden Thomas continued to show why he is the team’s leading receiver with four catches and 63 yards. Freshman Rico Flores Jr. caught three passes for 60 yards, adding to a promising freshman campaign. 

Similar to the running back, this wide receiver room is deep, and many of these receivers have stepped up and showed out. This group has somewhat been overlooked, but they seem to thrive on it. Each week they look like they are trying to outperform expectation and prove people wrong. As the season goes on, these receivers have started to find their niche and click together as a group. With Sam Hartman in the backfield and a room full of hungry receivers ready to take on anything, the Irish are looking to dominate and keep scoring.

Weekly Grade: A-; Season Grade: A-

Tight Ends

After having a career-game last week, sophomore Holden Staes was named the starting tight end against Central Michigan. His performance against Central Michigan was mostly quiet other than a four yard pass for a touchdown. His performance this game may not live up to last week’s against NC State but his presence was definitely felt. At 242 pounds, Staes is a physical tight end who was out there on the line blocking and creating space for his running backs to work. Once they got to the red zone he showed why he is a threat with his size, quickness and ability to catch everything. So this week may not have been the group’s best week, but they were still present and have established that they are okay with playing a more complimentary role.

Weekly Grade: B+; Season Grade: B+

Offensive Line

Once again the big boys in the front held it down for the Irish offense. The offensive line allowed zero sacks, continuing to bolster the school’s distinguished reputation for developing linemen. Together they opened the holes, allowing Estime to use his power and run through defenders with ease. They also gave Hartman ample time to read the defense and find the right man. This offensive line has become dominant, and they have an identity. They are physical men ready to sit you down at any moment and not let you get close to their quarterback. Without them this Irish offense wouldn’t be what it is. Each and every offensive lineman on the field showed complete control over Central Michigan, allowing for the offense to flow. You could not be more satisfied with this unit and what they have done so far.

Weekly Grade: A+; Season Grade: A

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