Sam Hartman on Tommy Rees leaving Notre Dame for Alabama: 'Business decision'

Mike Berardino
ND Insider
Dec 23, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Wake Forest Demon Deacons quarterback Sam Hartman (10) looks on from the sidelines against the Missouri Tigers in the first quarter in the 2022 Gasparilla Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

SOUTH BEND — This isn’t Sam Hartman’s first rodeo, so the graduate transfer quarterback from Wake Forest clearly wasn’t going to be drawn into any controversies.

Asked multiple times Wednesday evening about the Feb. 3 departure of former Notre Dame offensive coordinator Tommy Rees, now at Alabama, Hartman was firmly diplomatic in his answers.  

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“Coach Rees, it’s a business decision and it was understood,” Hartman said. “That whole process, it is what it is. Obviously, it was a great opportunity for him. There are no hard feelings there.”

Hartman offered praise for new offensive coordinator Gerad Parker, promoted from tight ends coach two weeks after Rees’ stunning departure, and new quarterbacks coach Gino Guidugli, officially hired away from Wisconsin on March 1.

“Coach Gino has come in and taken this thing by the reins for the quarterbacks,” Hartman said. “I really like what coach Gino’s done. He’s obviously had a very successful track record with quarterbacks and then college football in general. He’s very sharp, very personable. We’ve jelled really well in a short amount of time.”

As for the staff upheaval in February, Hartman said “it feels like forever ago.”

'Nice little passing game'

For the first time since 2016, Rees won’t be coaching Notre Dame’s quarterbacks, but he has been a willing resource for Guidugli during this transition period.

A pair of recent phone conversations, the first one coming as Guidugli made the drive down for his first day on the job, have been invaluable with spring practice set to begin on March 22.

“Just trying to get a feel for the room and some things on recruiting,” Guidugli said. “It’s an offense (Rees) has been running and he’s played in, so just getting his perspective on some things. He has no problem answering questions, and anything I had concerns about or wanted to know why, he explained them to me.”

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Guidugli, a record-setting quarterback at Cincinnati who spent 2017-22 on the Bearcats’ coaching staff, has been learning the Irish offense on the fly.

“I think we’ve got a nice little passing game in place,” Guidugli said. “Tommy did a nice job of building the offense. We’re not going to deviate too far. Gerad’s going to make it his own (but) there wasn’t anything wrong with the offense.”

No 'back seat' for Tyler Buchner

Incumbent quarterback Tyler Buchner, who still has three years of eligibility after missing all but three games last season with a sprained left shoulder, has made a strong early impression on his new position coach.

“Tyler’s a really bright kid,” Guidugli said. “He’s obviously super athletic in the offseason workouts that I’ve seen. Got a chance to see him throw the last couple days. Throws a great ball, got great arm strength. I think I’ve been very fortunate to inherit a pretty good quarterback room.”

Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Tyler Buchner (12) talks with head coach Marcus Freeman after the game of the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl of an NCAA college football game Friday, Dec. 30, 2022 at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish held off the South Carolina Gamecocks 45-38.

In Hartman and Buchner, Notre Dame has the last two Gator Bowl MVPs. Redshirt freshman Steve Angeli also returns after spending the bulk of last season as Drew Pyne’s game-day backup.

“Don’t leave Steve out,” Guidugli said. “Steve knows the offense well, too, but Buch had the experience of actually going in there and having to run it.”

While Hartman, who turns 24 in late July, is the FBS active leader in career passing yards and passing touchdowns, Guidugli isn’t closing any doors.

“I don’t think Tyler Buchner is going to take a back seat to anybody,” Guidugli said. “Tyler Buchner is going to go out here to compete for the starting quarterback position and he’s going to get an opportunity to compete for it, just like the rest of those guys in the room. I’m coming in with a clean slate.”

Kenny Minchey details his injury

Four-star freshman quarterback Kenny Minchey only resumed his throwing program in February after a dislocated right shoulder and subsequent bone contusion caused him to miss the majority of his senior season at Pope John Paul II High School in Hendersonville, Tenn.

A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam showed no structural damage. Minchey, who has been throwing 2-3 times a week, pronounced him shoulder 95% ahead of spring practice.

Pope John Paul II quarterback Kenny Minchey (left) and teammate Jamarr Jones share a laugh before their signing day ceremony Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022 at the preparatory school in Hendersonville, Tennessee. Minchey signed to play football at Notre Dame while Jones signed with Chattanooga.

After swapping his Pittsburgh commitment for Notre Dame in November, Minchey skipped the All-American Bowl in San Antonio in early January to focus on his rehabilitation program.

“Bone bruises vary,” he said. “Over time, it will heal. It’s not a serious injury, but I’m just reconditioning my arm. Some days I’ll wake up and it’s sore. That’s what happens when you’re getting back into something. It’s like lifting weights when you haven’t lifted in a while.”

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As for Rees’ departure, Minchey suggested it didn’t leave him disillusioned.

“I know as well as everybody else knows (that) coaches change all the time, and I have to be bought into the actual place and not the people,” Minchey said. “Coach Rees was one of the main sellers of me coming here, but I know that stuff changes. … Obviously, there was a lot of change, but I don’t think that changes my decision.”

Adon Shuler loses the sling

Wednesday marked one month since freshman safety Adon Shuler (Irvington, N.J.) had surgery to repair a sprained AC joint on his left shoulder. Earlier Wednesday he was cleared to shed the protective sling that had been his constant companion since the clean-up procedure.

“I figured it out when I got here with the trainers and coaches,” Shuler said. “They felt it was best I get it done now, so I can still be healthy and play the season.”

Shuler, who hopes to be cleared for non-contact drills this spring, said it helps to go through shoulder rehab with fellow defensive backs Cam Hart and Thomas Harper. They call themselves “The Pit Boys.”

Follow Notre Dame football writer Mike Berardino on Twitter @MikeBerardino.