Quarterback Sam Hartman transferred with the intention of making an immediate impact for his new program. He gets that chance in a spotlight game in his debut for No. 13 Notre Dame against Navy in Dublin, Ireland, on Saturday in the season opener for both teams.
Hartman spent five seasons at Wake Forest and left the Demon Deacons with a winning reputation and a stockpile of records, including the most touchdowns (110) and second-most yards (12,967) in Atlantic Coast Conference history. He led Wake Forest to bowl wins in each of the past two seasons.
Leaving the past for what he hopes are greener pastures in northern Indiana, Hartman has his sights set on leading the Fighting Irish to their seventh consecutive winning season after the team finished 9-4 in 2022.
"I guess I'm settled in, but I think I'm always learning," Hartman said. "There is never a day when you're not seeing a new look, seeing a new play. We always talk about a one-play, one-life mentality here. That's the standard. That's what I'm trying to grow on and figuring out how I can make this team the best it can be."
Hartman's veteran leadership comes in handy as he tries to work with a receiving corps low on experience.
Although he had just one reception in 2022, Tobias Merriweather is expected to be the No. 1 option, while running back-turned-receiver Chris Tyree and Jayden Thomas serve as supplemental targets.
Notre Dame offensive coordinator and tight ends coach Gerad Parker said Hartman has already done a good job of building a connection with his receivers.
"He's done it in a way that has remained patient, but also aggressive and direct. ... We all have as a staff," Parker said. "Let these guys grow and develop and as they do, we can build trust with them and put them in positions to make plays."
Unlike the Fighting Irish, the Midshipmen will be heavily relying on their running game, which centers around the triple-option.
However, that formation might have a different look under first-year offensive coordinator Grant Chesnut. Navy also has a new head coach in Brian Newberry, who had served as defensive coordinator since the 2019 campaign.
"We want to get off to a fast start," Newberry said. "It's hard to simulate what we do in practice. It's hard enough to simulate what we do schematically, it's even harder to simulate the speed at which we do it.
"The speed at which we play and the confidence with which our kids play at is gonna be extremely important."
Fullback Daba Fofana served as the centerpiece of last season's triple-option, rushing for 819 yards and six touchdowns on 186 carries. Quarterbacks Xavier Arline and Tai Lavatai were also strong on the ground, amassing 376 and 309 yards, respectively.
Despite the success in the running game, the Midshipmen settled for a 4-8 record in 2022. They have not had a winning season since 2019, when they went 11-2.
The Fighting Irish leads the series over Navy 81-13-1 and Notre Dame prevailed in 10 of the last 11 meetings. The Midshipmen last beat Notre Dame on Nov. 5, 2016.
Notre Dame beat Navy 50-10 in Ireland in 2012. Their meeting in 2020 was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
—Field Level Media