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Wake Forest quarterback announces transfer to Notre Dame

Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman announced Thursday afternoon he’d be transferring to Notre Dame for the 2023 football season.

Hartman coming to South Bend represents a home-run addition for offensive coordinator Tommy Rees and the Irish heading into the spring period. Widely regarded as the best quarterback in the portal, Hartman spent the last five years building one of the most impressive quarterback resumes in the country at Wake Forest. 

The stats of the Charlotte, North Carolina native are as gaudy as they come. He is the all-time ACC leader in career touchdown passes with 110; he’s thrown for 12,967 career yards, 3,701 of which came in 2022; and his production with his legs isn’t too shabby, either, with 856 career rushing yards and 17 total touchdowns on the ground. 

Perhaps most promising for the Irish is his completion percentage in 2022: 63.1%, a career-best mark up from 58% the last two seasons. He helped lead Wake Forest — who totaled a 25-37 record in the five years before he arrived — to a 38-24 mark during his five years as starter.

The decision to take an additional year at Notre Dame makes sense for both parties. The Irish already lost 2022 signal caller Drew Pyne in the transfer portal to Arizona State. They seemingly have decided to go in a different direction than last season’s offense, which leaned heavily on the run to the point of being predictable. 

Hartman is a dynamic quarterback who can hit deep shots and force defenses to respect Notre Dame’s passing attack. And from Hartman’s perspective, despite all his statistical prowess, a move to the Irish provides a chance to boost his ever-growing draft stock. Scouts are no doubt interested in seeing Hartman’s production outside of Wake Forest’s unique slow mesh offensive style, and a move to Notre Dame gives him the chance to prove himself both under a national spotlight as well as in a more conventional offensive system.

The move also creates an interesting timeline for Notre Dame’s quarterback room going forward. While it’s unlikely Marcus Freeman officially names Hartman starter anytime soon, you don’t bring in the all-time ACC leader in passing touchdowns to compete in a quarterback battle. Barring an unlikely sequence of events, Hartman will be under center for the first Irish snaps of the 2023 season against Navy in Dublin, Ireland.

As such, Tyler Buchner’s window to start is likely pushed back another year. The MVP of the Gator Bowl just a week ago lost much of his 2022 campaign to injury, but showed plenty of promise and potential in his return in Jacksonville, Florida.

But even in 2024, Buchner’s starting status might be far from a guarantee. Kenny Minchey was a late addition to the 2023 recruiting class who holds high four-star status himself. He’ll have a chance to make an impression and a case to be a future starter as soon as this spring as an early enrollee. Further muddying the picture will be the enrollment of would-be freshman CJ Carr, the early headliner of Freeman’s 2024 class. Carr could potentially end up as the first five-star quarterback Notre Dame has signed since Gunner Kiel in 2012. 

But Rees and Freeman no doubt are willing to sort out that potential logjam further down the line if it means having Hartman under center this fall. And above all else, it’s a good problem to have. In the short term, Notre Dame gets an immediate star at a key position of need who changes the team’s floor and ceiling for next season. And down the line, they’re slated to have no less than four (can’t write off Steve Angeli, either) four-star or higher quarterbacks that can compete for the starting job when Hartman leaves. 

Depth is a bulletproof vest in college football. The best way to protect against injury-related production drop-offs is to have every backup be a player who’s already starter quality. The Irish are currently set to have just that at the quarterback position going down the line.

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“That’s why we named him the starter”: Buchner ushers in new era against the Buckeyes

When he was first signed at Notre Dame, quarterback Tyler Buchner’s talent was lauded as the saving grace that would replace the stability that Ian Book brought to the Irish football program during his time in the position. When the former QB1 had played out his eligibility after having been the starter for three years, questions immediately arose about who would — and could — fill that position. Enter Buchner, a fellow Californian, four-star recruit that seemed ready to step into the role.

That was until graduate transfer Jack Coan entered the mix, unleashing the quarterback battle that ensued during the 2021-2022 season. With the position shifting between Buchner, Coan and junior Drew Pyne, the once straight path for the sophomore blurred slightly. But despite any uncertainty and doubt, it seems Buchner has won out and has become the sole man for the job.

That same uncertainty and doubt, however, followed Buchner into this season opener. After a year of experiencing several different quarterback combinations — often multiple in a single game — having a starter preestablished in fall camp was a shocking reality for Irish fans. Especially when it was one who did not play in the spring Blue and Gold game due to injury. Yet in the season opener, in his first game fully at the helm, Buchner has proven that although he may not yet be perfect in the position, he has great capacity to be.

Buchner exhibited both his run and pass game against the Buckeyes; he racked up 177 passing yards and a net 18 yards in rushing, nearly as much as sophomore running back — and sole touchdown scorer — Audric Estime’s 21 yards. He did so without a turnover, as head coach Marcus Freemen noted in his post-game press conference, which cannot be said for Coan’s or Book’s first games as starters for the Irish.

“I’m pleased with him,” Freeman said. “But the biggest thing I’m pleased with is zero turnovers.”

Aside from starting out on an even better foot than his predecessors, Buchner also had to adapt to the changing landscape on the field, shifting from the original idea to run both the ball and the clock, as Freeman said was their game plan heading into Saturday night. When his passing game was instead called upon, Buchner was able to capitalize on several opportunities for yardage gain, despite throwing some incomplete passes. 

In response to these mistakes, Buchner emphasized that it is the small facets of the game that eventually add up to how well a player or team performs.

“At the end of the day, it sort of comes down to execution and, you know, the little things,” Buchner said. “We didn’t do little things at the level of which, you know, the standard at which we hold ourselves to.”

In terms of execution, Buchner being a first-time quarterback was cause for concern, as he enters this new role in a highly anticipated matchup against one of the top teams in the country. However, Freeman noted that his adaptability and confidence prevented the moment from overwhelming him and instead, he rose to the challenge.

“That’s why we named him the starter,” Freeman said.

He demonstrated these qualities from the opening drive of the game, which ended in a field goal attempt that put the Irish on the board first. His rocket pass to sophomore receiver Lorenzo Styles Jr. set the tone for what could be under Buchner’s leadership.

This confidence, Buchner said, is bolstered by his teammates. After having gone eight for eight at the start of the game, he noted how the offense was starting to gel based on their trust in each other and their abilities.

“Luckily, I’ve got a great support staff around me. Awesome teammates,” Buchner said. “They played really well. And so you know, having the confidence that, you know, the guys around me are going to execute and do their job well certainly helped.”

Buchner also acknowledged his equal responsibility in this system. When asked about the offensive line, Buchner said that it is his job to be in the correct protection, too. This rapport Buchner has with his offense gives Freeman high hopes for the quarterback’s future at Notre Dame.  

“He’s going to be a really great football player and a great leader for us,” Freeman said.

Emily DeFazio

Contact Emily at edefazio@nd.edu