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QB logjam could find clarity with Montana’s potential exit

Feb 10, 2011, 3:47 PM EDT

Getty Images - Jonathan Daniel Getty Images

With a quarterback depth chart six men deep and only four quarterbacks slated to get reps during spring practice, the writing was all but on the wall that rising senior quarterback Nate Montana was never going to see the field again for the Irish.

And now news comes from the Missoulian that Nate’s father, Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana, spent Tuesday visiting with Montana Grizzlies’ football coach Robin Pflugrad, leading many to believe that Nate’s next stop could be D-IAA powerhouse Montana, where he could enroll as soon as Friday, making him eligible for the Grizzlies’ spring practice. If that’s the case, Kelly’s logjam at quarterback — and on the 85-man scholarship limit — could be cleared up by the end of the week, as the former walk-on signal caller spent last season on scholarship.

When Kelly arrived in South Bend, his depth chart at quarterback was down to only Dayne Crist as a scholarship quarterback, with Tommy Rees still being recruited to the Irish and slated to enroll early. Putting Montana on scholarship, especially after a solid performance in a vanilla Blue-Gold game made sense from a logistics perspective, allowing Montana to spend a full allotment of time with the team and prepare to be the next man in if anything were to happen to Crist. The Irish found out early what life would be like with Montana at the helm, when the junior quarterback was pressed into action after Crist was injured early against Michigan and Nate completed 8 of 17 throws with one interception before Crist returned for the second half.

The idea of Montana leaving is almost bittersweet for some Irish fans, if only because it kills the hope that Joe’s son could add a brick to the incredible legacy his father left behind. But if you were looking for clues as to what quarterback was most likely to seek other opportunities, Montana’s name should have been at the top of the list. After walking on in 2008, Montana left the Irish program for Pasadena City College, hoping that playing time at a junior college would kick start his development as a football player after largely watching throughout his career. (Montana only threw 19 passes as a senior in high school at powerhouse California high school De La Salle.)

We’ll likely find something out soon regarding Montana’s fate, but if this is it for Nate, it’s completely logical. You’ve only got so many years to be a college quarterback, and for a guy like Nate, it likely won’t happen at Notre Dame, even if the stars had seemed to align. Montana’s a perfect program for a guy like him, with a starting spot opening up and a recruiting class shy a signal caller.  (Plus, I imagine he’ll still have fans among those reporters looking for some fancy wordplay opportunities.)

  1. scardino - Feb 10, 2011 at 4:21 PM

    I would like to see him succeed, no matter what he decides to do.

  2. whisk3yjack - Feb 10, 2011 at 5:01 PM

    He must think he’s got a shot at a pro career. Why else leave ND for a D-IAA?

  3. ndfootballfan4life - Feb 10, 2011 at 5:35 PM

    i’m thinking that Montana just wants to play football for someone. Yeah, they may be 1AA, but Montana is a great football program.

    • Keith Arnold - Feb 10, 2011 at 6:10 PM

      Agree completely. That’s why you leave ND, to actually see the field. He’ll likely get his degree from ND either way.

      • whisk3yjack - Feb 11, 2011 at 9:45 AM

        It makes more sense if he still ends up with a degree from ND; but how does that one happen, with one year in JC and one another at Montana? I suppose it wouldn’t be surprising for the administration to give him special treatment.

  4. notredave - Feb 10, 2011 at 9:24 PM

    Without even taking a snap yet, I think Everett G is going to be one of the four qb’s. I think it’s safe to assume Dayne and Tommy will also be there.That leaves Andrew and Luke vying for the fourth slot. Does the other one then move on after next season?

    As far as Nate leaving…if he does, I wish him well.

    • whisk3yjack - Feb 11, 2011 at 9:43 AM

      Massa allegedly doesn’t want to transfer. He’s a pretty athletic kid, and rumor is that he’s moving to either WR or S.

      • borromini - Feb 11, 2011 at 2:55 PM

        I personally would prefer to see Massa play Safety.

  5. Keith Arnold - Feb 11, 2011 at 1:45 PM

    @Whisky — I’d challenge the idea that the administration has given him special treatment. I think you’d be surprised how many students take a semester away from ND only to return if they’re still on academic course. Don’t think that going to play Juco football is normal, but there are plenty of kids that take some time away before returning to ND.

    • bernhtp - Feb 11, 2011 at 5:48 PM

      Like anyone, he will need to meet the standards to graduate. Athletes often get support in meeting those standards (as they should given the enormous time commitment), but there are no short cuts around them.

  6. 1historian - Feb 12, 2011 at 11:34 AM

    He seems like a good kid and there is no way he is ever going to be higher than #6 on the depth chart, there is no other position he would qualify for, he wants to play football, so to transfer is the only logical option.

    Good luck to him.

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