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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame QB coach Gino Guidugli “is second to none,” will lead offense in Sun Bowl

December 27, 2023
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At every practice open to the media, Gino Guidugli warms up with one of the three quarterbacks on the roster. The 40-year-old former Arena Football signal-caller can sure still spin the rock, throwing a better ball than former QB Sam Hartman whenever they play catch.

Apparently, Guidugli can do a lot more than throw a tight spiral with an effortless release. 

It’s the opinion of Marcus Freeman that no one teaches the quarterback position better than Guidugli, the man he hired to Notre Dame last offseason.

“I believe we have a quarterbacks coach that is second to none,” Freeman said of Guidugli. 

Soon, Guidugli will team up with offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock once again. The duo overlapped in Cincinnati from 2018-21, with the Bearcats winning 44 games during that span. 

That stretch culminated with a 2021 College Football Playoff berth, where the team averaged 36.9 points per game (11th out of 130 FBS programs). 

They did this with a mobile quarterback by the name of Desmond Ridder, who completed 62.1% of passes for 10,239 yards, 87 touchdowns and 28 interceptions in four seasons as a starter. 

Ridder became a third-round draft pick by the Atlanta Falcons in 2022. He’s served as the franchise’s on-again, off-again starter this fall and has a lot of the same physical traits as incoming Fighting Irish transfer quarterback Riley Leonard.

Of course, the rekindled partnership must wait until January. 

In the meantime, Guidugli will serve as the program’s short-term offensive coordinator in the Sun Bowl, replacing the recently departed (to Troy) Gerad Parker. 

“The fortunate thing (about) the way Gerad Parker ran things as offensive coordinator was everyone was involved, and it was a collaborative effort for each and every game plan,” Guidugli said. “Going into it, the game plan was mostly in place when Gerad took the job at Troy. 

“We’re just continuing to execute that game plan moving towards the game. We’ve got a lot of guys who are making their first start, so we want to keep it fairly simple and give those guys a chance to go out there and play fast.”

Guidugli will call plays for a depleted roster after nine different offensive players to start at least one game this season opted out of the Sun Bowl or entered the transfer portal. 

Yet somehow, the team is still replete with the Notre Dame football stars of tomorrow, including running back Jeremiyah Love, wide receiver Jaden Greathouse, offensive tackle Charles Jagusah, offensive guard Billy Schrauth and tight end Eli Raridon. 

“It’s a whole new offense,” Guidugli said. “At the end of the day, I think we’ve got three starters returning, and two of those starters have only started three or four games in Billy and Ashton (Craig). Everybody else will be getting the opportunity to have their first start in a game of this magnitude.”

That means returning to rudimental principles from fall camp and rebuilding the offense from there.

“You have to go back to your basics, your foundation, your install one stuff from training camp,” Guidugli said. “The fortunate thing is you get a lot of time to prepare for a game like this, so you get stuff in. We’ve got really smart kids at Notre Dame, and those guys will go out there and be able to execute.

“As far as how much you can put in, we’ll be able to do enough, but we’re going to lean on the things we think we’re best at.” 

Sophomore Steve Angeli will be the man under center since Hartman opted out to get a head start on preparing for the 2024 NFL Draft. 

Angeli completed 76% of passes for 272 yards, four touchdowns and an interception in seven appearances as the backup quarterback this fall, all of which came in mop-up duty.

Oddly, his limited experience is a slight advantage given Notre Dame’s numerous offensive losses. 

“He’s never started before, so he doesn’t know any different,” Guidugli said of Angeli. “It’s not like he had a chance to go out there and play with the starters, so those are the guys he’s been practicing with. Those guys are going to be equally excited.”

Angeli will also benefit from having Guidugli’s familiar voice in his ear as both his position coach and offensive play-caller. 

“In Steve Angeli’s first start,” Freeman said, “it’s important to have that connection between the quarterback coach and the quarterback as you go into your first start.”

With the game on Friday, the Fighting Irish will finish their preparation in the coming days, getting ready for Guidugli’s abbreviated debut as an offensive play-caller. 

“We’re really excited to be here and looking forward to the game,” Guidugli said. “It can’t get here soon enough. Looking forward to the game being here and seeing a lot of young guys on our team have the opportunity to play in the game.”

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