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Looking Into Leonard and Potential Plan B's for 2024

Updated: Dec 12, 2023

Written by Phil Kowalis ⏐ Writer ⏐ X/Twitter:@PhilKowalisIT

Photo by: Duke Athletics

Marcus Freeman has delved into the transfer portal for the second consecutive year in search of a quarterback. One year ago, Freeman plucked Sam Hartman out of the portal to give experience and added depth to a very thin Notre Dame quarterback room. Hartman then beat out Tyler Buchner and Steve Angeli to earn the starting job for the 2023 season.

Hartman had an up and down season, completing 63.5 percent of his passes for 2,689 yards and throwing 24 touchdowns while being intercepted 8 times.

This year, Freeman has set his sights on acquiring former Duke quarterback Riley Leonard from the portal. Leonard would join Steve Angeli, Kenny Minchey and incoming freshman C.J. Carr in the Irish quarterback room. Leonard was hampered by injury this season and appeared in only 7 games throwing for 1,102 yards, three touchdowns, and three interceptions, Leonard also rushed for 352 yards and four touchdowns on 58 carries, good for a 6.1 yard-per-carry average. Should Leonard choose the Irish, he would become the leader in the battle for the quarterback job heading into the 2024 season. Let's take a look at what Leonard could bring to the Notre Dame offense next season.

Leonard would give Freeman and Irish offensive coordinator Gerad Parker a dynamic weapon at the quarterback position. Looking back at Leonard's last full injury free season in 2022, Leonard was able to pass for 2,967 yards, while tossing 20 touchdowns and six interceptions. While those numbers look very similar to what Hartman provided the Irish offense this season, the thing that Leonard would bring to the Irish offense that Hartman didn't is that Leonard is a serious threat in the run game. In addition to his passing stats, Leonard also added 699 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns on 124 carries good for an average of 5.6 yards-per-attempt. Having Leonard under center in 2024 would allow Freeman and Parker establish the power running offensive identity that they want, as Leonard would give Parker the option to add the quarterback power run to the heavy sets that Parker often wants to line up.

The addition of Leonard would not just bring the threat of the quarterback power run to the Irish offense, but would also give Parker the option of implementing the read-option into the Irish offense, a staple for the program throughout the last decade.

Adding Leonard's rushing threat to the stable of running backs the Irish will have in 2024 could give the Notre Dame offense the type of dominate rushing attack Irish fans haven't seen since the end of the Lou Holtz era in the mid-90's. While Leonard is Notre Dame's primary target in the transfer portal, his commitment to the Irish is anything but a lock.

Leonard was on campus for a visit with the Notre Dame coaching staff last week, and while from all reports everything went very well, Leonard left campus without giving the Irish his commitment - at least publicly. Leonard has reportedly been an interest for the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Auburn Tigers. Ohio State is also looking to add a quarterback from the transfer portal after losing their 2023 starter to the portal last week, and Auburn's need for a quality option at quarterback is well known. The Buckeyes have been reported to be considering Leonard as a choice for the replacement of Kyle McCord, which has the possibility to come to fruition.

If Leonard does eventually end up taking a visit to Ohio State, the Buckeyes could possibily turn the tables - although as it stands, this looks to be unlikely. It still does raise the question of what Freeman's plan B is if Leonard spurns the Irish for the Buckeyes, Tigers or another unknown suitor.

If Steve Angeli is to start the matchup against the Beavers and plays well, does Freeman then scrap his plan of bringing in a quarterback from the portal, and head into spring practice with Angeli competing with Minchey and Carr in a three-man competition for the starting job in 2024? Unlikely. Marcus Freeman has been very open about wanting to bring in a fourth scholarship quarterback to provide added depth at the position and to compete for the starting quarterback spot. To this point, Freeman has placed all of his eggs in one basket, as it stands. Now it looks like it will be Leonard or bust, but there are other names available on the market that could possibly find their way to South Bend should Leonard decide to go elsewhere. The developing quarterback situation will provide Irish fans with something to keep their eyes on over the next few days - or even longer should this recruitment go the distance.


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