Wake Forest Football: Sam Hartman is killing his draft stock

Oct 30, 2021; Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA; Wake Forest Demon Deacons quarterback Sam Hartman (10) runs out of the pass pocket during the first half against the Duke Blue Devils at Truist Field. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 30, 2021; Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA; Wake Forest Demon Deacons quarterback Sam Hartman (10) runs out of the pass pocket during the first half against the Duke Blue Devils at Truist Field. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports /

Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman has once again blown a big game with his surplus of picks. Has the trend dealt his draft stock unfixable damage?

Sam Hartman is an outstanding athlete and an even better person, so criticizing him almost feels like a crime of some sort. However, the Wake Forest QB has developed a nasty habit of underperforming in the big moments, and it can’t go unaddressed any longer.

Predominant examples of such questionable behavior go back as far as last season’s Duke’s Mayo Bowl between Wake Forest and Wisconsin. Now both teams were vastly flawed in 2020, so the matchup was not exactly national title material, but it was still a big game versus a big opponent.

Sam Hartman seemed to know this, as it was in that battle where he, a quarterback that had previously received media praise for his lack of interceptions, threw four in what ended up being an ugly 42-28 defeat.

As previously established, this was far from the biggest game that Hartman has played in over his time at Wake Forest. Rather, it was merely foreshadowing for what the world would see in moments with even more at stake.

The Demon Deacons started this college football season with a remarkable 8-0 record and their offense was so lethal under Hartman that he even started to garner some Heisman hype. That was until they had to visit the North Carolina Tar Heels in Chapel Hill.

Similar to last year’s Wisconsin Badgers, UNC was a huge disappointment this season and had not looked as if they should even be competing with the Deacs.

However, Hartman had heard that the Heels were going to kill the playoff hype in Winston-Salem once and for all. Not only that, but the rivalry with UNC has not exactly been pretty for Wake Forest historically. In other words, this was Wake’s biggest game of the season at that point.

Hartman threw for an astounding 398 yards and five touchdowns through the air, while adding two more touchdowns on the ground.

Along with all of that, though, he threw two costly interceptions (the most that he had thrown in a single game all season up to that point) and helped the Tar Heels come back from an 18-point deficit in the second half to win it, 58-55 and give Wake Forest their first loss of 2021.

Unfortunately, the big-game woes had only just begun with UNC. Clemson was the next heartbreaker, but they refused to even keep it interesting. The Tigers got started early and never looked back in what was a 48-27 beatdown. And in all objectivity, the game was visually more lopsided than the final score indicates.

Now Hartman didn’t actually throw an abundance of picks here, rather he only threw one. But in the process, he also threw only one touchdown pass as well.

The only other time he has done that little through the air was against a weakling in Norfolk State, as him doing anything more was simply unnecessary in the 41-16 victory.

What all did the Clemson game have in common with the UNC one? They both involved Wake entering them with playoff hype, both had Wake paired up against historically-superior rivals, both had tough environments to play in, and both had skeptics saying that Wake would lose. And this disastrous trend doesn’t end there, either.

This last Saturday, against the Pittsburgh Panthers in the ACC title game, was Sam Hartman’s biggest moment yet, along with being Wake Forest’s biggest in 15 years. And surprise, surprise: It was also the setting for one of Hartman’s worst performances to date.

The gunslinger quarterback, known for hitting 300 passing yards on a bad day and orchestrating one of the nation’s toughest offensive regimes, threw for under 220 and tallied up four interceptions in what was a 45-21 blowout win for Pitt.

UNC, Clemson, and Pittsburgh all have defenses that are at least formidable, but throwing seven total picks against the three of them is unacceptable for a passer of Sam Hartman’s typical standard.

Even in the big games that Wake won, such as the ones against NC State and Boston College, Hartman’s play was not as gorgeous as it could’ve been. In the 45-42 win over the Wolfpack, he threw for under 300 and three picks. He also had a pick against BC, where his passing yardage was even lower. However, it went unnoticed against an opponent as lackluster as Boston College, who still found a way to lose by a hideous score of 41-10.

Again, Sam Hartman can play some great ball, but he is clearly incapable of coming up big when the time is right. NFL scouts look for a player’s clutch ability–especially when the player in question is a quarterback–and right now, Hartman does not have it one bit. If he doesn’t get better on the big stages, and fast, his draft stock will surely suffer.

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