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Notre Dame Football

Gino Guidugli “Very Fortunate to Inherit” Talented Notre Dame Quarterback Room

March 15, 2023
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Tommy Rees hopped aboard a private jet donning the Alabama Crimson Tide logo on Feb. 2, which effectively marked the end of his tenure with the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame announced new quarterbacks coach Gino Guidugli 27 days later on March 1. 

As a result, Wake Forest transfer quarterback Sam Hartman went nearly a month without an official position coach.

“With the coaching change prior to me coming in,” Guidugli said, “he thought he should be further along in February than he was.”

Guidugli couldn’t change the past, so he quickly made up for the lost time. He called Rees on his drive to campus before his first day and asked his predecessor about the quarterback room and recruiting. 

“If I have questions, he's been very helpful just to be able to reach out to,” Guidugli said. “He has no problem answering questions and anything I had concerns about or wanted to know why, he explained them to me."

Once officially on the job, he sat in the film room with Hartman and reviewed Wake Forest’s last four games of 2022. 

That’s a small sample of the 48 games Hartman played in Winston-Salem, where the former three-star prospect became the all-time ACC leader with 110 touchdown passes. His 12,967 career passing yards rank second in the conference’s history behind only North Carolina State’s Philip Rivers.

Still, Guidugli had to start somewhere and his first objective was to understand Hartman’s offensive responsibilities with the Demon Deacons and grasp his football vernacular. 

The end of his Wake Forest career also provides plenty of material from which to glean information. In his final four contests, the fifth-year quarterback completed 63.8% of his passes for 1,278 yards, 14 touchdowns and three interceptions.

Guidugli paused the tape throughout the session, had Hartman talk him through his read on a particular play and asked him, “what do you call this coverage? What were your responsibilities in protection?”

Coach Marcus Freeman requests new coaches and players learn the program’s pre-existing schematic terminology rather than hind the returning roster with new jargon. After the film session, Guidugli felt better equipped to get Hartman up to speed.

“He and I are learning at the same pace,” Guidugli said. “So, I would learn it in the morning and I'd come to teach it to them in the afternoon. I told him as soon as I knew it, I would get in and try to install it for them.”

In addition to a few phone calls with Rees, Guidugli leans on Freeman,  recently promoted offensive coordinator Gerad Parker, who served as Notre Dame’s tight ends coach in 2022, and the rest of the offensive staff.

In the room, Guidugli can also pick the brain of returning signal-caller Tyler Buchner, simultaneously learning from his pupil and evaluating Buchner’s grasp of the offense. 

“Obviously, Tyler's been in there and understands the offense,” Guidugli said. “He talked me through like, ‘what was the procedural operation here? What did you guys call this?’ And just helped me understand some things that maybe I wasn't aware of or didn't have knowledge of to get everybody in that room on the same page.” 

Buchner enters his third spring in South Bend with 13 career appearances, including three starts. He completed 56.8% of his passes with the Fighting Irish while producing 1,408 yards of offense and 13 total touchdowns to eight interceptions.

Still, the rising junior signal-caller is among the most talented quarterbacks to sign with Notre Dame in the last decade. He enrolled as a consensus top-100 player and the No. 41 overall prospect in the class of 2021.

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

Injuries and unfortunate circumstances have hampered Buchner’s development up to this point. He’s played at least four games in just two of the last five seasons. 

In high school, he missed his sophomore campaign due to a torn ACL, and the COVID-19 pandemic caused state officials to cancel his senior season. 

Freeman named Buchner the starter last summer, but he injured his non-throwing shoulder in the home opener against Marshall. 

Buchner sat out the final 10 games of the regular season before returning for the bowl game against South Carolina, where his game-changing abilities were on full display. In the 45-38 win, he accounted for 334 total yards, five scores and three interceptions, two of which the Gamecocks returned for touchdowns. 

The addition of Guidugli means each quarterback starts with a clean slate. 

"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.”

The rest of the room consists of rising sophomore Steve Angeli and early enrollee Kenny Minchey. Both were ranked the No 180 overall prospect by ESPN in their respective recruiting classes. 

Guidugli’s only official role at Notre Dame is as quarterbacks coach, but he brings a wealth of offensive experience to the offense. 

He played quarterback at Cincinnati, in the Arena and Canadian football leagues. He began coaching in 2010 as a graduate assistant with Central Michigan, working with wide receivers. He first became a quarterbacks with the Chippewas in 2016.

Throughout his career, he’s also held multiple coordinator positions. That includes serving as the Bearcat’s offensive coordinator in 2022. 

After the season, he followed coach Luke Fickell from Cincinnati to Wisconsin, where he worked for a few months before accepting his current position at Notre Dame. 

Gino Guidugli Coaching Career

2010-12 Central Michigan Graduate Assistant

2013-15 Central Michigan Running Backs/Recruiting Coordinator

2016 Central Michigan Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks

2017 Cincinnati Running Backs

2018-19 Cincinnati Quarterbacks

2020-21 Cincinnati Passing Game Coordinator/QBs

2022 Cincinnati Offensive Coordinator/QBs

At Cincinnati, he also demonstrated the ability to develop former three-star prospects and athletic quarterbacks.

Desmond Ridder enrolled at Cincinnati as the No. 1,657 overall player in the class of 2017. His only other offer came from Eastern Kentucky, an FCS program. 

In 2018, Ridder became the full-time starter as a red-shirt freshman. He emerged as a NFL prospect as a junior, completing 65.4% of his passes and accounting for 6,585 total yards and 68 touchdowns with 14 interceptions in his final two seasons.

His career at Cincinnati culminated with a 2021 College Football Playoff berth, the first for a Group of Five program.

“I think my ability to get him prepared, week in and week out and for us to have the relationship we had while we were there, but he was self-motivated,” Guidugli said. “It was just me about preparing the information for him, giving it to him in a way that he could understand it and go out there and perform his best on Saturday. That's my job as a coach. Put those guys in a situation to go out there on Saturdays and perform at their best." 

The Atlanta Falcons selected Ridder in the third round with the No. 74, making him the second quarterback off the board in the 2022 NFL Draft. 

The Notre Dame quarterback room may be talented, but Guidugli left Madison months into his tenure at Wisconsin due to the relationship he develop with Freeman in Cincinnati.

There Guidugli witnessed a 31-year-old defense coordinator display the traits of an aspiring head coach. Players and coaches respected Freeman, who was detail-oriented, personable and “super sharp.”

“Marcus is doing it his own way,” Guidugli said. “Marcus has great energy. Family is important to him. For me to have the opportunity to come to Notre Dame and coach the quarterbacks was one I couldn't pass up."

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