Notre Dame quarterback Sam Hartman has opted out of the Sun Bowl to begin preparations for the 2024 NFL Draft. Sophomore Steve Angeli is expected to start in place of Hartman when the No. 16 Fighting Irish square off against No. 19 Oregon State in the Sun Bowl on Dec. 29 in El Paso, Texas.
The news marks the end of Hartman’s lengthy collegiate career, which spanned six seasons. He spent five years at Wake Forest before transferring to Notre Dame for his final season of eligibility in 2023. Hartman wrapped up the year passing for 2,689 yards and 24 touchdowns to eight interceptions. Additionally, he rushed for 123 yards and three touchdowns. Hartman concludes his NCAA career with 15,656 yards passing, 134 touchdowns (tied for third in FBS history), and 49 interceptions. He gained 979 yards on the ground and scored 20 rushing touchdowns.
Steve Angeli Steps into the Spotlight
Without Hartman under center, Angeli will have an opportunity to make a positive impression in his first career start. Freshman quarterback Kenny Minchey may also see action. Angeli played in seven games this season. He completed 19 of 25 passes for a total of 272 yards. He threw four touchdown passes and one interception in the victory against Stanford. Minchey, who participated in two games, completed both of his pass attempts, accumulating a total of 12 yards.
Among Angeli’s 2023 highlights include going 8 of 11 passing for 130 yards in a 56-3 win over Tennessee State. In the Irish’s 58-7 win over Pittsburgh, Angeli went 6 of 7 passing for 92 yards and he connected with Cooper Flanagan on a touchdown pass. He threw his fourth touchdown pass of the year in the final minutes of a 45-7 victory over Wake Forest.
Riley Leonard South Bend Bound
As Hartman exits, the Irish have found a new quarterback for the 2024 season. As expected, Duke transfer Riley Leonard, regarded as one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation, has chosen Notre Dame over Ohio State. In his three seasons at Duke, Leonard threw for 4,450 yards and 24 touchdowns. He rushed for 1,224 yards and scored 19 rushing touchdowns.
Leonard joins a relatively inexperienced quarterback room at Notre Dame, and he will likely be a projected starter upon arrival. Like Hartman, Leonard can use his time at Notre Dame to raise his NFL stock. In 2022, Leonard led Duke to a massive turnaround season. He accounted for 33 touchdowns—20 passing and 13 on the ground. Duke ended the season with a 9-4 record and a bowl victory over UCF in the Military Bowl.
Hampered late in the season by an ankle injury suffered in the loss to Notre Dame, Leonard led Duke to an upset victory over Clemson in the season opener. All told he played in seven games this year, finishing with 1,102 yards passing, 352 yards rushing, and seven total touchdowns. Leonard was 13-8 in 21 starts at Duke.
Seeking Back-to-Back Bowl Wins
Notre Dame is seeking consecutive bowl game victories for the first time since 2013-14. In Marcus Freeman’s first season at the helm of the Irish, Notre Dame defeated South Carolina last year in the Gator Bowl. Concluding the regular season 9-3 in Freeman’s second season as head coach, the Irish can reach double-digit wins for the sixth time in seven seasons with a victory over Oregon State.
With Angeli under center, the Irish will be facing a strong Oregon State defense. The opponents threw 12 interceptions and 20 touchdowns against the Beavers this season. A strong performance from Angeli in the Sun Bowl will bolster his stock heading into next season, especially with Leonard joining him in South Bend.
Notre Dame’s offense is expected to look quite different in the Sun Bowl. Several offensive players have already opted out of the bowl game. Despite the attrition due to the transfer portal and the impact of the 2024 NFL Draft, Angeli has a chance to make a lasting impression on the coaching staff ahead of next season. While his future clearly will not be determined by his Sun Bowl performance, Angeli will need to perform admirably in the Sun Bowl to show what he is capable of in something other than clean-up duty in blowout wins.