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OPINION: It’s unfair to Steve Angeli, but there is no 2024 quarterback competition

The quiet part needs to be said out loud

Notre Dame v Stanford Photo by Brandon Sloter/Image Of Sport/Getty Images

If you’re being honest with yourself, did you think Steve Angeli would ever start a football game for Notre Dame? I don’t think I did, and there’s something to be said for being a starting quarterback for the Irish, even if it was a one-off in a forgettable bowl game.

Angeli’s career stats now sit at 34-44 (77.3%) passing for 504 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception. It’s certainly a small sample size, and it all took place either in garbage time or in the Sun Bowl against a heavily depleted Oregon State team. But what’s indisputable is that Angeli has developed as a quarterback in his time at Notre Dame.

Angeli was the unheralded No. 21 overall signal caller in the 2022 recruiting class and, at best, Notre Dame’s third choice at the position after missing on Ty Simpson and Walker Howard. Fast-forward to the end of his second season and he’s done nothing but exceed expectations, low as they may have been. For that, an immense amount of credit is owed Angeli (and his position coaches).

And that’s the tragedy of modern college football in a nutshell. Because, beyond being the Irish starter in 2024, I can’t even fathom Angeli getting a fair shot at the job this spring. So let’s not indulge the myth of there being any kind of Notre Dame quarterback competition.

The Irish are pot committed to Duke transfer quarterback Riley Leonard in two ways which make a legitimate quarterback competition a pipe dream. The first commitment is monetary, because NIL is not-so-secretly the major reason Leonard will don an Irish uniform next year. Even if that isn’t the University’s money, the boosters who made it possible are unlikely to accept a scenario where Leonard becomes a million-dollar stepping stone for Angeli.

The second way Notre Dame is committed is in its transfer portal credibility. If Leonard joined the Irish and lost the starting job, then as long as this coaching staff is in South Bend, every one of Notre Dame’s peer programs will have negative recruiting ammunition for every future potential quarterback transfer.

So it’s Riley Leonard’s job, even if Marcus Freeman can’t admit that for fear of the complacency it might breed on his roster.

To be clear, I’m not saying Angeli should be handed the job. I’m not even saying that he’s a better quarterback than Leonard. In fact, I think Leonard clearly has the higher ceiling given his athleticism. But iron sharpens iron, so the coaches should give each player an honest opportunity to win the job. I just don’t believe that Notre Dame will (and maybe doesn’t even believe that it can).

I’ll reiterate that this is all my opinion. Freeman may be ballsy enough to tell NIL donors that it doesn’t matter who gets paid and how much because his job is to put the best players on the field. If so, kudos to him.

And as for future potential QBs, it’s been reported that Notre Dame doesn’t plan on taking a transfer quarterback for the 2025 season, because back-to-back portal QBs has been an expensive investment. The dream scenario is that either Kenny Minchey or CJ Carr (or Angeli if he sticks around) will have developed enough to be the quarterback of the future in 2025. But even if that’s the plan for now, it would be unwise to not keep the transfer option open, because enhancing the roster is a necessity every offseason.

Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl - Notre Dame v Oregon State
Steve Angeli went 15-19 passing for 232 yards and 3 touchdowns while rushing for 27 yards in a 40-8 Sun Bowl victory over Oregon State.
Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images

Again, do I think Riley Leonard will be the best quarterback on Notre Dame’s roster next season? Yes. And, of course, some coaches have always had their biases, and promises have always been made to transfers who otherwise wouldn’t leave their school without assurances of playing time. But in the grand scheme of college football, acquisition costs rarely if ever used to factor into the calculus of sorting out a depth chart and now they almost certainly do. That’s a disservice to players like Angeli who used to have a shot, even if a slim one, to earn a starting job.

In a poetic world, Angeli bides his time next season, knowing he would be one play away from starting for the Irish, and then gets a real shot at the starting job in 2025. Of course, if he won that job, to the chagrin of fans everywhere, he would dredge up memories of other three-star Irish quarterbacks who staved off more highly touted players. But fans be damned, college football used to be a meritocracy, for better or for worse.

Now it’s just NFL Lite. We’re all the worse for it, especially guys like “Peanut Butter” Angeli.