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The Backup Plan: Who Will Be QB2?

Updated: Mar 31

Written by Owen O'Connor ⏐ Writer ⏐ Twitter/X: @Ocon54

Photo by The Irish Tribune

Notre Dame has built a very talented roster this offseason, leaving no doubt they are ready to make a national title run. One of the points of emphasis Head Coach Marcus Freeman made a priority this offseason was having young talent behind starters ready to step up when their name is called at every position. Coach Freeman has done a tremendous job of building up talent that will be ready to step up this season and beyond. The 2024 season promises to be one of stability and readiness, particularly in their quarterback ranks. With a roster boasting young and talented signal-callers, the Fighting Irish are well-prepared to navigate any hurdles that may arise during the upcoming campaign in the Quarterback Room.

During this offseason recruitment, Notre Dame was lucky enough to land former Duke starting Quarterback Riley Leonard. He totaled 26 passing Touchdowns and 4,450 yards throughout his 27-game career. During that time, he had a QBR of 131.7 and an Offensive PFF grade of 71.7. The former Blue Devil star is projected to be the starter for the upcoming season but had ankle surgery this offseason that has raised minimal concerns to start the spring. After seeing many starting Quarterbacks go down with injuries at both collegiate and professional levels this past season, every team must have a plan B. Leonard looks to be on track to start for the Fighting Irish week one, however, should Leonard miss any time this season (at any point), it's good to know where your options lie.

Steve Angeli - Junior

A 4-star from Oradell, NJ, Angeli was a highly touted quarterback when recruited in the class of 2022. The junior has long awaited his chance to show off his talent and had minimal opportunities to play behind starter Sam Hartman in 2023. Angeli finally got his chance in the Sun Bowl last year vs Oregon State with many talented starters sitting out for the NFL Draft. The young Quarterback managed to be 15 for 19 on his passes with 232 yards and 3 Touchdowns. This finished his season total to an impressive 504 yards and 7 touchdowns while completing 77 percent of his passes. Even more impressive, Angeli managed this feat while missing multiple key receiving threats the Irish depended on throughout the course of the season, including leading receiver Chris Tyree. Many fans are excited for the future of the junior quarterback, but will most likely have to wait another year.

Angeli is assumed to be a strong candidate to win the backup role, as he was excellent in relief of Sam Hartman last season, and even more so in his first career start with a limited supporting cast. Fans and evaluators alike tend to believe that Angeli has the lowest ceiling in the quarterback room with respect to raw talent, however, his experience and poise have certainly given him the highest floor. If Leonard does miss time this season for whatever reason, Angeli has all the tools and experience to lead this offense to success. The proof of concept for Angeli a lot of fans have been asking for has now been delivered, and he is certainly an option that both Mike Denbrock and Marcus Freeman should have the utmost confidence in. We will find out more about Angeli and what his role in the offense will look like during the Blue & Gold game in April.

Kenny Minchey - Sophomore

Kenny Minchey is a very talented player that Fighting Irish fans are certainly familiar with. As a recruit, Minchey was a 4-star talent and the second-ranked quarterback in the state of Tennessee. In his junior year of High School, he threw for 3,280 yards with a 32-9 TD-INT ratio on a 61.3 completion percentage. His senior season was unfortunately cut short due to injury. During his high school career, Minchey showed a quick release and a strong arm, allowing him to make every throw on the field. As a passer, he demonstrates natural sense and excels while moving outside of the pocket. he has proven to be an instinctive passer with a knack for understanding how to extend plays within the pocket. Thanks to his slight quickness and ability to retain his eyes downfield as plays progress, he has shown the talent to lead this Fighting Irish team in the future.

Minchey is a bit of a dark horse in the quarterback room at the moment. While we may not have seen much in terms of game action, his mechanics and intangibles jump off the screen. With the addition of Mike Denbrock's scheme, a player with Minchey's physical tools and upside might be a more familiar option for a coach who's most recent quarterback was a Heisman winner. Minchey will have ample opportunity with a clean slate to impress Coach Denbrock, and could end up sneaking his way up the depth chart. He appeared in three games during his true freshman season of 2024, finishing the year with a 100% completion rate, completing two passes for 12 yards. In his limited action where he was not expected to play, the young quarterback stayed calm and collected while making his first collegiate passes. Minchey has the privilege and disadvantage of a very talented quarterback room, letting him learn from his veteran teammates but also having to wait for his moment. With a new coach and the possibility of injuries, his moment might come sooner than expected.

CJ Carr - Freshman

CJ Carr is one of the very young, but very talented players on this Notre Dame roster. Carr was a very highly rated quarterback recruit in the class of 2024, ranking sixth overall among quarterbacks in his class and first in the state of Michigan. As a senior, he led Saline High School to a 9-2 record and the second round of the Michigan Division 1 playoffs for the second straight year. He completed 199 of 292 pass attempts for 2,754 yards with 24 touchdowns to go against 9 interceptions. Carr also added 9 rushing touchdowns in his impressive senior campaign. CJ Carr has shown solid arm strength and can get the ball to almost anywhere on the field. He has also shown very good pocket presence and mobility, but will most likely be at home in the pocket for the Irish in the future. The highly-ranked recruit is also the Grandson of former University of Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr.

The three-time first-team all-state quarterback will most likely have to wait his turn, but the Fighting Irish will not shy away from talent that can help on-field production. Although Carr will wait his turn this season, his talent won't keep him on the bench for too much longer. He won't be the guy to replace Riley Leonard in the event of an injury, but there's always a chance he could be next man up. His physical tools will shorten his developmental window, which is why it's so important to recruit talents of his caliber.

With transfer Quarterback Riley Leonard expected to be the starter, many of these names will be ones to watch next season. Leonard is a very talented and experienced player who brings high hopes for The Fighting Irish this season, but his injury history might be something to keep an eye on. All of Notre Dame's young talent will be able to learn and develop behind Leonard. For now, the program is in good hands with the depth and talent in the quarterback room heading into the upcoming 2024 season.


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