The 2023 Notre Dame spring football practice schedule comes to an end this weekend with the annual Blue-Gold Game on Saturday in South Bend, Indiana. It's the first glimpse at what could be a pivotal season for second-year coach Marcus Freeman, who enters this season with significant changes to his offensive coaching staff, a splashy transfer portal addition at quarterback and the maturation of young talent who started their careers as highly-rated recruits.
On the recruiting trail, Notre Dame has experienced success with Freeman, first as a defensive coordinator and now as a head coach. The Fighting Irish have ranked in the top 12 nationally in each of the last three recruiting cycles, so while Notre Dame fans are saying goodbye to program cornerstones like Michael Mayer (the school's all-time receptions leader among tight ends) and defensive end Isaiah Foskey (the all-time sacks leader) there are talented options coming up next.
Getting to see the youth movement on display, as well as the new additions, highlight the excitement for the game, which should be competitive. The roster is split evenly between the Blue Team and the Gold Team, and while you could argue which side got the better draw there are potential starters on both sides. That includes the top two options at quarterback, with incumbent Tyler Buchner leading the Blue Team and Wake Forest transfer Sam Hartman leading the Gold Team.
How to watch Notre Dame 2023 spring game live
Date: Saturday, April 22 | Time: 2 p.m. ET
Location: Notre Dame Stadium -- South Bend
Live stream: Peacock
2023 Notre Dame spring game storylines
1. Is there any noticeable change on offense? Freeman retained Tommy Rees as offensive coordinator after being promoted to head coach following the 2021 season. And while Rees' strong connection to the program as a former quarterback might have kept him from joining Brian Kelly at LSU, an offer from Nick Saban and Alabama was not going to be refused. But Rees' departure was only part of the story; the search to replace him became of the biggest headlines in the (admittedly slow) February weeks that follow National Signing Day. Multiple sitting Power Five offensive coordinators were identified as serious candidates before Freeman promoted tight ends coach Gerard Parker. That decision, paired with the hire of Gino Guidugli as quarterbacks coach and Joe Rudolph as offensive line coach, will have the offensive execution under intense scrutiny as fans get a feel for the offense under the guidance of the re-worked staff.
2. Who has the upper hand in the QB competition? Central to the success of the Notre Dame offense is whether the Fighting Irish can get high-level play out of the quarterback position. Tyler Buchner was a four-star prospect with an Elite 11 pedigree coming out of San Diego and played a role immediately as a dual-threat, change-of-pace option playing behind Jack Coan. Buchner appeared in 10 games in 2021 and entered 2022 as the team's starter before an injury knocked him out of the final 10 games of the regular season. He returned for the team's bowl game and led a game-winning touchdown drive en route to MVP honors.
His hold of QB1 is tenuous, however, thanks to the arrival of Sam Hartman from Wake Forest. Hartman set the ACC career record with 110 passing touchdowns and put himself among the most prolific quarterbacks in the conference's history in every notable category across his five-year career with the Demon Deacons. The decision to join Notre Dame likely came with expectations, on Hartman's side, that he would be in the mix for starter's snaps. Now, two quarterbacks stand on opposite teams for the spring game, and their respective performances will have a role in how the battle is viewed heading into the summer.
3. Looking for pass catchers to flash: Mayer was the team's leader in receptions for each of the last three seasons, last year hauling in more than double (67) the catches of the team's second-leading pass-catcher Lorenzo Styles (30), who has entered the transfer portal. The reliance on Mayer in the passing game was both a reflection of his individual excellence, but also some shortcomings and injury issues on the outside. Now, especially with a new offense in place and two good options at quarterback, Notre Dame fans are looking for players to emerge as difference-makers coming out of spring. Players like Jayden Thomas and Tobias Merriweather appear ready for bigger roles, and former running Chris Tyree could be an X-factor now playing at wide receiver. Notre Dame also has a couple of early enrollee true freshmen who have been turning heads.