June 15, 2024

2024 Notre Dame Football Offseason Position Snapshot: Quarterbacks

The room looks healthier than it has been in a while, but let’s not get out over our skis

We’re officially 10 weeks from the start of August, so to keep the content train rolling in the offseason, it’s time to preview Notre Dame football’s position groups ahead of training camp. As a disclaimer that shouldn’t be necessary, even with the spring transfer portal window closed, modern college football rosters are in a state of constant flux. That means any one of these position spotlights could look wildly different if a single graduate player jumps in the portal, a freshman asks out of their NLI, or someone suffers an injury.

But such are the occupational hazards of a college sports team and blogger. So, with that out of the way, let’s dive into the quarterbacks.

For the “stars matter” crowd, the average recruiting ranking of each position group will be provided in each of these spotlights. Not that quarterback depth has won a team the national championship since Cardale Jones played football instead of school in 2015. Still, better talent collection means a greater likelihood of hitting on at least one of them.

It feels worth mentioning that the as-of-right-now bottom two players in the Irish rotation bore the highest recruiting rankings in high school. That would be Kenny Minchey — who bucked the modern trend of jumping ship when playing time is uncertain and forwent the transfer portal this spring — and one-time five-star CJ Carr. Carr made waves in spring camp and may surpass Minchey as a freshman (if he hasn’t already), but for the time being it seems the veterans Riley Leonard and Steve Angeli lead the room.

Leonard is Notre Dame’s fourth new quarterback to start a season in as many years, ever since the program’s all-time wins leader, Ian Book, departed after the 2020 season. Leonard brings athletic upside lacking in the rest of the room. That athleticism may also be the key to avoiding a repeat of the disastrous offensive line play of 2021 by keeping defenses more honest than Jack Coan ever could. (But more on the O-line in the weeks to come).

The issue for Leonard is health. Howard Cross III rolled up on Leonard’s ankle on a game-sealing strip sack last season that eventually led to Leonard shutting down his 2023 season and having surgery. Then Leonard had a second, unexpected procedure after arriving at Notre Dame. He took some good old-fashioned “mental reps” for most of spring practice, standing several yards behind the other quarterbacks as they took snaps during practices and the spring game.

Speaking of the spring game, the other three quarterbacks all showed out to varying degrees. Angeli didn’t wow but was the only QB who didn’t throw an interception. Minchey overcame a seemingly inferior roster at his disposal and showed some chutzpah and mobility that could distinguish him from the other backups. And Carr played both ways late in the game, showing promise and getting fans excited as highly touted freshman quarterbacks are prone to do.

Take everything you see in a spring game with a grain of salt. It was also windy that day, so maybe take a couple of grains. But the bottom line is this is a solid room.

If not for Leonard’s injury history, and specifically the second surgery, the writing on the wall is probably more glaring to either Angeli or Minchey and one is currently looking for, or already on, a different roster. But at least Angeli knows he’ll be one play away from assuming the starting job at some point in 2024. The trade-off to the second surgery is that there’s a little more worry about Leonard’s ankle and a little less worry that the Irish can find a way to win 10 games with a backup quarterback if necessary.

Of course, with a 2024 schedule as weak as Notre Dame’s, 10 wins doesn’t guarantee a College Football Playoff spot, even in the new 12-team format. Still, it’s a deal you take when the prospects of stealing an 11th win from Texas A&M or Florida State aren’t that daunting, especially given the strength of the Irish defense.

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