Last week, Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson criticized Notre Dame for playing Whitney Houston’s "I Will Always Love You” to Sam Hartman on Senior Day. Clawson claimed that the gesture was over the top and not believable, given that Hartman had (at the time) only played 11 games for the Irish after spending five seasons at Wake.
Believable or not, Hartman stole our hearts the minute he threw his first pass at the Blue-Gold Game and Irish faithful never looked back. Students made shirts honoring him and College Gameday signs featuring him were common.
But was he worth it?
Obviously, he is significantly better than Tyler Buchner. Coming into his sixth year as a student-athlete, no one had any delusions of a long-term relationship. This was always going to be a one-and-done.
But knowing how difficult this season was going to be, with so many games against ranked opponents, did Notre Dame have the right priorities? The only reason to grab a mercenary quarterback like Hartman is if you think you have a shot at a national championship.
While outpacing Drew Pyne and Buchner’s combined efforts last year, Hartman has averaged 224 passing yards per game and will finish the year with fewer passing yards and more interceptions than former Notre Dame quarterback Jack Coan in 2021. While that one guy who dressed in a traffic cone to all the games was pretty funny, there was nowhere near the amount of hype for Coan as there has been for Hartman.
And Coan’s team was not close to winning a national championship either (per Brian Kelly).
Hindsight is 20/20, but I would argue that developing sophomore Steve Angeli or freshman Kenny Minchey may have been a better use of the season. Unless of course, the plan is to get another transfer quarterback for next year, potentially ruining Notre Dame’s quarterback recruiting reputation with three transfer starters in four years.
Next season, Notre Dame’s big games are against Florida State and a probably Caleb Williams-less USC. The rest of the schedule features teams like Purdue, Miami (OH) and Virginia, AKA, winnable games.
With the College Football Playoff expanding to 12 teams next year, qualifying is a very, very achievable goal for Notre Dame, but they probably can’t lose more than two games. Finishing in the top 12 turned out not to be achievable this year. With a brand new starting quarterback, it’ll be even harder.
If Notre Dame had gotten Angeli or Minchey more meaningful time on the field, they would have built chemistry with the other starters and had their growing pains this season rather than next year, when Notre Dame will be in a better place to achieve its long-term goals.
I would have much rather watched one of them struggle this season and have had the coaching staff either get them ready or decide they weren’t the guy and move on to someone else. Sophomores throwing obvious picks is one thing, but watching ol’ Hartman have two ugly turnovers in a first half against Stanford that was a lot closer than it should have been was not fun.
And let’s be honest, Audric Estimé, not Hartman, was the real reason we got out of that hole on Saturday.
Call me selfish, but I want to see Notre Dame in a playoff game during my senior year. With the trajectory this team is on, I’m not sure that's likely.
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