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Notre Dame Football

First-time starter Steve Angeli is ready for the “real bullets to fly” in Sun Bowl

December 21, 2023

Steve Angeli has the full support of the Notre Dame football program, at least through the end of the year. 

Coach Marcus Freeman quickly to anointed the sophomore quarterback as the starter in the Sun Bowl once Sam Hartman opted out, bypassing the possibility of a QB competition between Angeli and freshman Kenny Minchey.

“There's not a plan to try to play two quarterbacks,” Freeman said. “We're gonna go with Steve and want to make sure we give him the best opportunity to succeed.”

Of course, incoming transfer QB Riley Leonard is the odds-on favorite to become the chosen son next August.

Why else would the staff bring in an experienced rising senior with the tools to become a first-round NFL Draft pick? 

Hartman’s recruitment and arrival in 2023 impacted Drew Pyne and Tyler Buchner enough that both eventually entered the transfer portal. Will Leonard have the same effect on Angeli?

Who knows, but Freeman, Gino Guidugli, and the other offensive coaches have always been above board with him. 

“The staff has been upfront with me through everything that's gone on,” Angeli said, “and I knew it was coming, and I’m ready to compete when that time comes. But right now, I’m just focused on winning the Sun Bowl.”

In the meantime, Angeli gets to prove if he can replicate his garbage time success in meaningful minutes, even if he doesn’t quite see it that way. 

“I don't think there's actually a fact I need to prove something for myself,” Angeli said. “The stuff I’ve done on the field, I think speaks [for itself]. I don't really have much of a comment on that other than just putting in the work and getting prepared for this game with my guys.”

Over seven 2023 appearances, Angeli completed 76% of passes for 272 yards, four touchdowns and an interception.

It’s always best to consume Pro Football Focus ratings with a heavy dose of skepticism, but he graded out as a borderline elite player in 74 snaps this season and continuously improved.

“As a backup, you're getting important reps in practice,” Freeman said, “and obviously, in the opportunities he's had in the game, he's done a tremendous job. We have a lot of confidence in Steve Angeli.”

The second-year signal-caller says spending the last 10 months around Hartman better prepared him for how to carry himself as the Notre Dame quarterback. 

He even adopted a similar week-to-week routine.

“I think the same way I’ve approached the whole season,” Angeli said. “Obviously, I’m now the starter, but my preparation, the way I’m preparing for the game, doesn’t change. Now, it’s time for the real bullets to fly. We’ve got a job to do to get to 10 wins, win the Sun Bowl and that's my only job, my focus.”  

It also helps that he got to face the nation’s fourth-ranked pass defense in practice every day, which includes throwing against promising NFL prospects like cornerbacks Ben Morrison and Cam Hart and safety Xavier Watts. 

“We’ve talked about iron sharpens iron,” Angeli said. “So, going against those guys every day in practice, you want to make practice at times seem harder than the game. You want to be put in an adverse situation and get thrown in the fire here.

“So, when you're out there in front of 90,000 people, 100,000 people, you're ready to make the plays and do your job.”

Will he actually prove to be qualified? Could a strong Sun Bowl performance make him a serious contender to be named the starter next spring?

In two weeks, he’ll let his play start answering such questions down against a top-25 opponent in Oregon State.

“Now it’s time for the real bullets to fly,” Angeli said. “We’ve got a job to do to get to 10 wins, win the Sun Bowl and that's my only job, my focus.”

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