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QB Sam Hartman transfers to Notre Dame, giving Irish their most experienced passer in more than a decade

Look back on a compilation of the best plays from Notre Dame's 2022 season on NBC.

For the second time in three years, Notre Dame will turn to a transfer quarterback to lead the offense in 2023. Sam Hartman announced on Thursday he will join the Irish after concluding his Wake Forest career last month.

Hartman spent the last five seasons leading the Demon Deacons, setting an ACC record with 110 touchdown passes in his career, the final three of those coming in Wake Forest’s 27-17 victory against Missouri in the Gasparilla Bowl on Dec. 23. Hartman threw for 280 yards on 23-of-36 passing, leading the game-sealing drive in the final minutes. His transfer intentions first received public credibility the morning of that game.

That game-winning drive alone may have illustrated why Notre Dame wants Hartman to take over a position that would otherwise likely once again land in the hands of current sophomore Tyler Buchner, unproven after a shoulder sprain cost him 10 games this season no matter how entertaining his Gator Bowl performance was.

The Demon Deacons’ final drive with Hartman at the helm featured three chunk plays, all courtesy of the quarterback. He threw three passes, completing all three for 31 yards, including a 16-yard touchdown. He added a 15-yard run to get into the red zone, and he drew a roughing the passer penalty that gained 15 more yards earlier in the drive. All told, Hartman produced 61 of the 75 yards on the eight-play drive.

Explosive scores were a norm behind Hartman. Wake Forest averaged 35.4 points per game this season with Hartman playing, missing the season opener due to a blood clot concern discovered in the preseason. The condition, known as Paget-Schroetter syndrome or effort thrombosis, was suspected to have occurred as a result of a previous infection that caused inflammation. Hartman underwent surgery, was initially sidelined indefinitely, and in the end he missed just the one game.

He has one season of eligibility remaining, one granted by the 2020 universal pandemic eligibility waiver. After 48 games with the Deacons, it was increasingly clear this season Hartman would not play that final season in Winston-Salem.

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In the season’s latter half, he would quip everyone must be sick of him, suggesting an NFL foray would be his next stop. At the least, the 6-foot-1 slinger could be a late-round draft pick that landed on an NFL roster for a few years. To give that thought some context, the 16th pick of last year’s sixth round (a slot selected simply because it falls near the middle of that vague possible draft range), Jamaree Sayler signed a 4-year, $3.8-million contract with a $175,928 signing bonus, per Only that signing bonus was guaranteed. His base salary in 2022 is $705,000.

Presume Hartman does not suffer any career-altering injury in 2023 and that same type of money should be awaiting him in a year, nearly all still unguaranteed. In the interim, the advent of name, image and likeness rights presents him a collegiate pathway to “life-changing money,” as Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson acknowledged earlier in December.

“When the bowl game is over, if there is some incredible offer for him to go to another school and get life-changing money, how can we fault him for that,” Clawson said last month.

For Notre Dame’s part, Irish head coach Marcus Freeman has repeatedly said he would pursue an incoming transfer only if the player was set to contribute immediately. Development projects come via high-school recruiting.

“We’ve always said if we’re going to get somebody out of the portal, they have to be somebody that we know can come in and make an immediate impact and really help this football team win games right away,” Freeman said when December’s signing period commenced. “... If we’re going to go into the portal for certain positions, we have to make sure that one, they’ll fit here, but two, they can have an immediate impact. That hasn’t changed based off who we signed.

“You don’t sign high school kids to say, okay, this kid has to have an immediate impact. We hope some of them so, but you don’t know. When we go into the portal, we’re saying these guys have to have an immediate impact for this football team.”

Freeman’s open and planned pursuit of a quarterback transfer played a direct role in junior Drew Pyne transferring to Arizona State before Notre Dame’s bowl appearance.

Wisconsin transfer Jack Coan had an “immediate impact” in 2021, starting 13 games for Notre Dame and leading the Irish to a Fiesta Bowl appearance. He did so at Buchner’s expense, losing the nominal quarterback competition as a freshman, as well as at Pyne’s, appearing in only two games when Coan was particularly struggling.

Freeman’s description of the expectations around an incoming transfer to South Bend combined with Hartman’s vast experience advantages should make it clear Buchner will again be viewed as the runner-up in a nominal quarterback competition.

While Hartman has thrown 1,597 pass attempts in the last five seasons, Buchner started just one high school season. The pandemic and a knee injury robbed him of two more, just as Coan and the shoulder injury did the last two. None of that is Buchner’s fault, but it renders him greener than even an Irish quarterback wants to be, particularly compared to a two-time All-ACC quarterback.

Wake Forest will visit Notre Dame next season on Oct. 28.

2018: 9 games; 1,984 passing yards, 55.3 percent completion rate, 6.8 yards per pass attempt, 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions.2019: 4 games; 830 passing yards, 56.7 percent completion rate, 8.6 yards per pass attempt, 4 touchdowns and two interceptions.2020: 9 games; 2,224 passing yards, 58.2 percent completion rate, 8.1 yards per pass attempt, 13 touchdowns and five interceptions.2021: 14 games; 4,228 passing yards, 58.9 percent completion rate, 8.3 yards per pass attempt, 39 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.2022: 12 games; 3,701 passing yards, 63.1 percent completion rate; 8.6 yards per pass attempt, 38 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

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