Jul 7, 2011, 7:59 PM EDT
While the writing has been on the wall for a few weeks, quarterback Maty Mauk made it official when he verbally committed to Missouri. Mauk was one of Brian Kelly’s first offers at quarterback, and Mauk picked the Tigers over Michigan, Notre Dame and Illinois.
Mauk’s highlights have been message-board fodder for months, with the quarterback absolutely slicing and dicing his way through the competition since his freshman season. But if there’s a knock on Mauk it’s his lack of physical tools and the worry that he might not have the size and speed needed to dominate at the college level. That partially explains his limited offer list and three-star ranking, along with the fact that Mauk’s high school, coached by his father, doesn’t play at the higher levels of Ohio football.
Regardless, for the second year in a row, it looks as if Kelly and company failed to land their presumed No. 1 target at quarterback. Around this time last year, Irish fans were still smarting over Bubba Starling’s decision to stay home and play for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, even after a great visit to South Bend. (Of course, imagine the gripe Irish fans would have now — with Starling likely to leave college football behind for millions of dollars from the Kansas City Royals. Don’t remind Florida State fans what happened when Joe Mauer took the baseball money instead of going to Tallahassee. They signed Chris Rix and spent nearly a decade in college football purgatory.)
It appears that the Irish will forgo a quarterback recruit this cycle, with reports coming from subscription-based websites that Notre Dame has already moved on to focusing on a strong crop of 2013 signal-callers. That said, at this time last year, Everett Golson didn’t exist to Irish fans, and Kelly and company managed to sweep in and sign one of the top two-way quarterbacks in the country.
The Mauk family has openly praised Brian Kelly’s offense and you get the feeling after reading between the lines that the Irish had significantly cooled on Mauk just as Mauk likely noticed a jam-packed depth chart in front of him in South Bend. Still, Kelly’s been on the record as saying he wants to get a quarterback every recruiting cycle, and a four-deep competition has the ability to become a liability pretty quickly. (For a quick history reference, recall Sharpley, Clausen, Jones, Frazer.)
If there’s a position that’s seen its fair share of turnover at Notre Dame, it’s been quarterback. Whether it was Derek Roback’s decision to transfer away last year after the QB bug bit, or Chris Olsen’s decision to depart before his sophomore season (and take along with him his All-American brother Greg), the Irish have seen plenty of quarterbacks come and go, a natural progression that comes along with uneven depth charts and a limited number of snaps and opportunities.
As we analyze the depth chart at quarterback, it’s interesting to consider that Kelly’s kept four quarterbacks in contention. Whether that’s a cagey move, or more likely a reality thanks to the diverse skill-sets of the players on the roster, it’s also setting up another odd-man out situation, not unlike what happened with Luke Massa in spring drills. If the goal is to retain the players on the roster, expect to see Andrew Hendrix in the “change of pace / Tebow bulldozer” role and Everett Golson possibly redshirting. That said, if Golson’s athleticism and grasp of the offense is too much to ignore, the newcomer could be the one taking snaps immediately, which could spell the end for a guy like Hendrix, a quarterback that many feel is too talented to be sitting around.
(Of course, the bizarro version of all of this is that Dayne Crist finds himself as the guy that’s odd man out. While I don’t think this is going to happen, people much smarter than I am have mentioned Crist as a perfect Joe Flacco-type: NFL skills, NFL body, playing in a system that doesn’t quite fit his talents. If Crist finds himself behind Tommy Rees this year, Crist could graduate and transfer immediately into a I-AA program, putting together a big year and some great tape for NFL scouts that’ll likely come knocking regardless.)
All of this is of course speculation, but as you can see, building a roster, specifically at the quarterback position is tricky business. While we’ll likely never hear anything from Mauk’s camp other than the fact that Missouri was the best fit for him, it’s likely a thin depth chart that’s been plundered in Columbia, matched with a crowded backfield with a ton of eligibility left over in South Bend was enough to make the decision an easy one.
We’ll find out in a few years if it was a good one.