How many times do hype trains blow all sorts of steam at the station but never get rolling out of the blocks? In sports, too many to count. There are people in South Bend, Ind., and Notre Dame football fans all over the world hoping that’s not the case for the Fighting Irish this fall.
Notre Dame has a new quarterback in Wake Forest graduate transfer Sam Hartman. He’s thrown 110 touchdown passes in his career and if all goes well in his final year of eligibility, it will be 150 by the end of it. No Irish quarterback has ever hit 40 in a single season. Brady Quinn holds the program record with 37 in 2006. Hartman had 39 in 2021 and 38 in 2022. He is knocking on the door.
Why not 40 in 2023?
There it is again. There is no stopping the steam. Either the train will fire off or it won’t. If it doesn’t, these are the reasons that could prevent it from tearing down the tracks.
The unproven Notre Dame pass-catching corps doesn’t come up big
Hartman should be able to elevate the play of Notre Dame’s wide receivers. Deion Colzie could become a downfield threat because of Hartman’s deep-ball accuracy, for example. Hartman can get guys involved in the short passing game, too. Look at the Blue-Gold Game. Freshman Jaden Greathouse caught slant after slant. He ended up with 11 catches for 118 yards.
The wideouts have to meet Hartman halfway, though.
Colzie has 13 catches in his career. Greathouse, of course, has 0. Senior Chris Tyree has the most catches of any returning Notre Dame player with 56, and he played running back the first three years of his career. Junior Jayden Thomas has 25, the most of any returning true wide receiver. That title would have belonged to Lorenzo Styles (54), but he transferred to Ohio State. Sophomore Tobias Merriweather, running as a starter all spring, has 1.
Even Notre Dame’s tight ends have little to no experience in the passing game. Senior Kevin Bauman and junior Mitchell Evans have 5 receptions apiece. Sophomore Holden Staes has 1. Sophomore Eli Raridon doesn’t have any.
Hartman is in a position to kickstart a lot of Notre Dame skill players’ careers. But if they don’t do their part to help him out, his last year as a college quarterback could be a frustrating one.
The offensive guard positions never get sorted out
Not enough is being made of Notre Dame losing a guard in Jarrett Patterson, just selected in the sixth round of the NFL Draft, who did not give up a single sack in his entire career at multiple offensive line positions. Josh Lugg wasn’t ever on Patterson’s level, but the Irish are replacing him at the other guard spot.
It could take a few games for the Irish to figure out the middle of the o-line. It’s a good thing Notre Dame doesn’t play Ohio State until Sept. 23, the fifth game of the season. NC State looms in game three, though, and Hartman did not fare well against the Wolfpack at Wake Forest. He threw three interceptions against them twice, including last November when NC State won, 30-21. NC State sacked Hartman four times and was relentless with pressure all game.
As stout as Notre Dame offensive line play has been over the years, there have been rough spots. Hartman is at his worst when the line doesn’t hold up. Position coach Joe Rudolph has some developing and coaching to do to get the Irish where they need to be up front.
Hartman just doesn’t pan out
As Ricky from Trailer Park Boys would say, this is “the worst case Ontario.” (Worst case scenario for those who aren’t familiar with the Canadian mockumentary sitcom).
In all seriousness, it’s not impossible, either.
Some transfers are destined to work at their new stops. This seems like one of them. But none of them are completely foolproof. There is a chance, albeit slim, Hartman never finds his footing in South Bend. Notre Dame is asking Hartman to take himself out of an offense he knew and operated for five years and immerse himself in a completely new one. What if it just never clicks?
The Blue-Gold Game was a good sign that Notre Dame will never have to worry about that. Protect Hartman, and he will make defenses pay — even if he isn’t lulling linebackers to sleep with the slow-mesh on every down.
The post Biggest post-spring concerns for the Notre Dame football offense appeared first on On3.