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Restocking: Quarterbacks

Feb 22, 2013, 12:05 PM EDT

Everett Golson

When you look back at it, it’s remarkable how quickly Notre Dame has solidified the quarterback position. While most remember the Charlie Weis years as a golden era for Irish quarterbacks, the end of his regime brought great instability to the position.

Had Weis returned for the 2010 season, he’d have likely done it without Jimmy Clausen. That means he’d have opened spring practice with an unproven quarterback recovering from an ACL injury and a depth chart that included… well — not much.

There’s little belief that even if Weis had stayed around that Clausen would have returned for his senior season. And as we saw this season at Kansas, any perceived alchemy between Dayne Crist and Weis likely would’ve produced fool’s gold.

While Brian Kelly may have earned some second-guessing for the way he handled Crist, one of the team’s undisputed leaders in those early transitional years, there’s no questioning his ability to restock the depth chart at a positive absolutely integral to the health of a football program. From the moment Kelly took over the Irish, he recruited the quarterback position hard, filling the depth chart to the point that many now wonder if the depth currently collected is sustainable.

Entering the 2013 season, Notre Dame might have one of the most enviable depth charts in all of college football. An emerging star in Everett Golson. A battle-tested number two in Tommy Rees. An elite youngster in Gunner Kiel. At one point, Andrew Hendrix looked like the future of the Irish, and right now he’s likely the No. 4 quarterback. And that doesn’t even take into consideration Malik Zaire, another dual-threat quarterback that impressed on the national scene this season.

Let’s take a look back at the quarterback position, and look at the war chest the Irish have collected.


Andrew Hendrix — Irish held off Urban Meyer and Florida for Hendrix. Saw spot duty in 2011.
Luke Massa — Late offer by Kelly. Now a reserve wide receiver who had an ACL tear last season.
Tommy Rees — Early enrollee spent time in two seasons as starter, before backing up Golson in 2012.

Everett Golson — A long time commit to North Carolina, Golson was Kelly’s first true dual-threat QB.

Gunner Kiel — A whirlwind recruitment ended with Kiel enrolling at ND, to Les Miles’ surprise.

Malik Zaire — The Irish landed Zaire early, and he became a ringleader of the recruiting class.

Way too early spring projection

Expect to see a ton of Gunner Kiel this spring. Getting him involved in the offense, even though there’s no doubt that the job is Everett Golson’s, is key to the overall health of the program. For Kelly and Chuck Martin, selling Kiel on the future of this team won’t be tough — especially with the onus on competition, and Kelly’s proclivity for playing multiple quarterbacks.

Finding snaps for the five quarterbacks on the roster might be difficult during the Blue-Gold game, but this spring should be dedicated to advancing the offense and the base level of knowledge for the entire offense, a unit that looked mighty rudimentary at times last season, and showed just how far it had to go during the BCS Championship game against Alabama.

While Golson’s job might be safe, this is a huge spring developmentally for him. Expect Golson to be challenged openly by both his coaches and his competition, with the meeting room just as important for the rising junior quarterback as the practice field. Without Tyler Eifert as a human mismatch, the evolution of the offense will depend on the quarterback position making quicker, more decisive decisions.


  1. yaketyyacc - Feb 22, 2013 at 12:34 PM

    this is one area that has an overabundance of talent. injuries, poor performance, academic ineptitude wil not affect the quarterback. in 2012 the question of who to start rested on who was capable. in 2013, who will start will rest on just picking a name out of the hat. and this is the competition that will render Notre Dame with a fired up team all season. Already Malik is running for team leader. GREAT!
    When Rockne asked Gipp to carry the ball, he replied, how far? When Kelly asks one of these young talented quarterbacks to throw a long pass, he will reply, does it have to stay in the stadium?
    Optimistic? Absolutely! The Irish are coming…..

  2. nudeman - Feb 22, 2013 at 12:58 PM

    My take:
    Golson: HUGE upside. But at 5’9″, 190lbs (?), he’s gonna miss some time

    Kiel: Everyone seems to want to predict a transfer. Not so fast my friend. Per the comment about Golson above, Kiel will get some shots, and he’ll get some shots THIS YEAR.

    Rees: No comment

    Hendrix: A Greek tragedy. So much physical talent and a seeming inability to grow into a polished college QB. BK gets some blame here. No coach can throw away an entire season putting up with a young QB’s mistakes, yet BK did exactly that in 2011 with a guy who had 1/8th the talent and upside of AH.
    Had AH rec’d a longer leash back then, he MIGHT be a much better player now. And he might not. That vision thing kills him.
    Moot point though as there are 3 guys on the roster right now who are better (EG, GK, MZ), and it looks like all is pretty much lost for AH as an ND QB. As I said … tragic. Great kid though, and that’s more important.

    Zaire: Love everything about this kid. His film is awfully good and listening/watching him interviewed is even better. Class act.

    • stedward - Feb 22, 2013 at 2:54 PM

      You ever watch The League? They joked about announcer code words like calling black athletes a “class act.” Some other ones were white guys are gym rats or real scrappy players (I know we can all hear Mike Mayock saying this about guys like Cam Mcdaniel), Hispanics are firecrackers or spark plugs in the clubhouse.

      • nudeman - Feb 22, 2013 at 3:12 PM

        The code word along this line that I’ve heard pointed out is “articulate” to describe a black kid who can string 2 sentences together

      • mtflsmitty - Feb 23, 2013 at 1:36 AM

        Nude’s comment below achieves Mt Rushmore-like status for the most asinine comment ever posted here.

        Of course, the other three comments enshrined have to come from Dick Asman, or the guy who has permanently banned his kids from the internet. It’s not clear if the perspective below is Nude’s, or if he’s restating someone else’s “code”, or trying to be cute. Based on hundreds of posts over the last year, I have to extend the benefit of the doubt here. But that was very poorly played, sir.

      • mtflsmitty - Feb 23, 2013 at 1:38 AM

        Prison me. Comment above.

      • nudeman - Feb 23, 2013 at 12:42 PM

        I sort of resent that
        I could pretty much have a Mt Rushmore all to myself with some of the wild sh** I’ve written

      • 4horsemenrideagain - Feb 23, 2013 at 2:14 PM

        “Articulate” is one of the words the Vice President used to describe the president while they were running against each other in the primary, as well as “clean,” and even though Biden is a gaffe machine, lets cut everyone some slack with the idiocy of the “coded language” discussion.

      • stedward - Feb 23, 2013 at 2:59 PM

        This went to a weird place.

      • irishbornraised - Feb 24, 2013 at 1:40 AM

  3. bernhtp - Feb 22, 2013 at 3:08 PM

    1. Golson: will get better and will be the starter, but he will be pushed. While not fragile, he’s pretty small and will get hurt as he did last year. Others will get their chance.

    2. Kiel: will get a shot at the #2 spot given his physical potential (height, strength, speed, arm) and the need to keep him engaged. He will likely see lots of practice time with the first team in the spring and a good look at him in the spring game.

    3. Rees: Big brother, mentor, Red Hat leader, and eventual coach. Unless Golson messes up and Kiel doesn’t develop, I don’t expect him to see meaningful snaps.

    4. Hendrix: Agree with Nude: tragic opportunity loss in not developing him, but it is what it is. Andrew should get the role of PK holder and other Special Team roles to leverage his athletic ability and throwing ability. Let’s have Notre Dame Special Teams no longer evoke thoughts of kids in a short yellow bus.

    5. Zaire: Redshirt and scout team. He only sees the field if Golson gets hurt, Kiel fails, and he shows amazing ability.

  4. fnc111 - Feb 22, 2013 at 3:20 PM

    Golson dual-threat? Ummm did you watch the Bama game? He is a no threat. Golson is slow and short. One word, Gunner! If he isn’t starter by mid season this program will go nowhere under Kelly. If you don’t have a QB at this level you won’t win. The offense is boring under Kelly and he can’t develop a QB to save his life. These last three years have been some of the most boring I’ve ever watched ND play on the offensive side of the ball. Kelly is a head case now after Tulsa, USF and in recent years. He has totally changed ND football to really boring. I hope that changes someday.

    • nudeman - Feb 22, 2013 at 3:49 PM

      I have to disagree. He’s taken Golson from a guy who was immature, pouted and couldn’t even consistently take a snap to a fairly decent QB in his redshirt frosh season. To your other points, he’s not blazing fast but he’s very mobile and can make guys miss. Great arm too.

      After 2 years of watching #11 supposedly check us into good plays only to fu** them up with his weak arm and cement feet, I’ll take what we’ve got now.

    • italianirish - Feb 22, 2013 at 4:22 PM

      “this program will go nowhere under Kelly” — It’s already gone undefeated and to the National Championship. It can’t go much higher under Kelly other then winning the whole damn thing.

      “he can’t develop a QB to save his life” — I believe he developed a few 2-star guys at Cincy to be pretty good. I was not a huge Golson fan when he started playing (though I knew he had great upside and he just needed a little time). He was slow to make decisions and got the happy feet nearly every play. BUT he totally came around and grew up and by the end of the season was playing like a veteran. The NCG was a bit of a mess, but to say he’s not developing shows you are not paying attention.

      “These last three years have been some of the most boring I’ve ever watched ND play on the offensive side of the ball.” — You were clearly not around for the Bob Davie years

      • nudeman - Feb 22, 2013 at 4:35 PM

        My favorite Bob Davie moment was this:

        Interviewed at half time against Mailbox State U, or someone of that caliber, after they had just put up about 9 yards of offense in the first half (at home, btw), he was asked about how he’d approach the 2nd half : “If we have to run it 45 times, by golly we’ll run it 45 times”.

        And they did.

        Jesus …


    • kansasirish - Feb 22, 2013 at 10:41 PM

      Who can seriously give that comment a thumbs up?

      And I suppose you think the team was better under Chuck’s leadership?
      We’re coming off of an appearance in the NC game that nobody under the sun predicted and you want to complain about boring play?
      Give me a freaking break!!

      • nudeman - Feb 23, 2013 at 10:46 AM

        Chuck … lofl

    • gtizzo - Feb 24, 2013 at 11:28 AM

      Note to all ND haters who post on this board:

      Let go of the BCS title game it is over NOBODY CARES ANYMORE, Rivals wrote an article about how ND turned January gloom into gold on NSD in February. The SEC doesn’t beat Alabama often enough…let it go. ND has moved well beyond the loses to Navy and Tulsa. The are in process of solving the turnovers they had in USF.

      “I don’t measure a man’s success by how high he climbs but how high he bounces when he hits bottom.”

      A quote from George S. Patton

      Take the word “man” out of that quote and put in “team” and you have ND.

      • ndgoldandblue - Feb 24, 2013 at 10:43 PM

        I prefer this other quote from Patton: “The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.” I think that also sums up ND. Whether it’s ugly or pretty, all that matters is winning. Can’t wait for fall.

  5. fnc111 - Feb 22, 2013 at 3:26 PM

    nude is right on the mark. 2011 just didn’t make sense at this position.

    I wish Kelly would bring in a QB coach because this is his baby and he can’t develop anyone. A lot like the Cierre pt issue, Kelly plays favorites and has his teachers pets.

    Zaire will never see the field as a QB here.

    • penick44 - Feb 22, 2013 at 5:51 PM

      Zaire will be the next starter at ND after Golson after Golson uses his elgibility. He fits the offense and is a better prospect than Kiel.

      • nudeman - Feb 22, 2013 at 6:56 PM

        I love Zaire and hope he gets his shot at some point. However …

        … Fatal flaw in your logic is this: By saying that Zaire fits the offense better than Kiel, you’re assuming that BK will still be there in 2-3 years.

        I highly doubt that. He’s already shown his cards in that regard.

      • stedward - Feb 22, 2013 at 7:05 PM

        Kiel was the much better prospect than Zaire. Zaire got the traditional rating boost from being an early ND recruit but still was not as highly regarded as Gunner, unless you talk to Les Miles about him of course. A mobile QB is more dangerous in the spread but Kelly has used both types of QBs before. The best guy(s) will see snaps.

  6. danirish - Feb 22, 2013 at 3:33 PM

    “Without Tyler Eifert as a human mismatch” That thar is funny!

    I may be out of place but I didn’t think Golson played that well vs Alabama. Sure, some yards but I watched the game again (ugh!) and most of his passes were sloppy flings that the WR had to make a good play on. A lot of his throws looked like he was throwing darts at a drunken bar competition. His TD to Riddick had some zip and was a good ball but I, IMHO, saw a lot of prayers thrown….

    Meanwhile – the other guy wearing Crimson was throwing footballs that were beautiful, with confidnce and it didn’t look like he was trying to “body-language” the ball to the WR.

    It seems ND passing does fall back on the “human-mismatch” jump ball route.

    • bigmix86 - Feb 22, 2013 at 4:04 PM

      Why don’t you wait until Golson is a redshirt senior before you start comparing him to McCarron in 2012.

    • don74 - Feb 22, 2013 at 5:16 PM

      “I may be out of place but didnt’t think Golson played that well vs Alabama.”

      I have’t watched a second time but who did play well against Alabama?

      Heck, considering what he inherited Kelly’s done a good job in elevating the QB position.

      I think we will see a lot of GK this spring and fall. If he beats TR out for #2 he will see time this year.

      • papadec - Feb 22, 2013 at 9:20 PM

        don74 – Texas A&M.

      • don74 - Feb 24, 2013 at 12:57 PM

        I meant players on ND. I can’t think of any one player that had a great game.

  7. goirishnd - Feb 22, 2013 at 5:02 PM

    How do we think Blue Gold game snaps shake out, rotate 4 guys in for the first half and Zaire for running clock 2nd half? That’s not alot of snaps to go around.

    • bernhtp - Feb 22, 2013 at 9:58 PM

      The BG game will be interesting. My bet is that all five won’t play, at least not at QB, but that’s just a guess.

      Here my prediction: Unlike last year where BK positioned it as an open competition where the three QBs rotated, this year Golson is the presumptive starter. He will start Golson for the first couple of series. He then gives Rees a series or two and lets Kiel have the remainder of the half. Maybe he throws Hendrix a series, but I don’t think so. Zaire gets time in the abbreviated, rolling-clock second half.

      • nudeman - Feb 23, 2013 at 10:54 AM

        Hate to say it but any time given to AH is BK throwing him a bone. He can’t be in the 2013 plans

        There is no reason for BK to play nice and give his pet, Tommy, a bunch of snaps. We know what he can and can’t do.

        I’d think Zaire will get most of the 2nd half like Kiel did last year.

  8. cpfirish - Feb 22, 2013 at 8:14 PM

    I will give Golson all the credit in the world! He was a freshman! Jesus! What did everyone expect from him?? Going into the spring it’s clear who our starter is. Now after spring going into the season Kiel could make a push for the #1 but I know golson will step up his game between now and then. TR his career is done. AH his career is done. Zaire will be the man after golson leaves. So I really think the odd man out is Kiel.. Can’t wait for spring practice! Go Irish!

  9. oldschoollyons - Feb 22, 2013 at 11:47 PM

    His comments may not be popular, but fnc111 makes sound points in his first remarks. We are all happy with ND’s regular season. Kelly did a good job restructuring the program. He is an excellent recruiter.

    However, as a developer of quarterbacks and an in-game coach, he has not shown much so far. The offensive concepts last season were pedestrian and unimaginative. The play-calling was ordinary at best. In the NC game, the team was unprepared and was out coached by a wide margin. That does not mean that Kelly is not a good overall football coach. It means that he has a lot of room to improve as a game coach.

    In fairness to Kelly, Golson started with a lot to learn. As the season progressed, he learned to recognize signals from the sideline and was able to get plays off on time. He took fewer risks with the ball (He largely got rid of the loaf-of-bread running technique). After the Michigan fiasco, he was never again completely overwhelmed. Likely this year Kelly will help him not to lock in on a single receiver. He may be able to teach him to recognize defenses and begin changing some plays at the line depending on the defense he sees. He may also help Golson try to see the field better and check down from one receiver to another — although that may be a long term project. And he may be able to help Golson begin to put touch on the ball so that we can run a few screen passes.

    Golson is still learning. He has a way to go; but he is obviously talented. In any case, Kelly likely has too much invested in him to switch to Gunner or, perhaps, even to see Zaire clearly. So Golson is likely to be our quarterback this year, barring injury.

    • mtflsmitty - Feb 23, 2013 at 1:54 AM

      Respectfully, OldSchool….which is it? Paragraph two where you baselessly argue BK doesn’t know how to develop QBs; or paragraph three where you use a fact-based approach to describe how BK’s finger prints are all over huge strides made by our freshman QB?

  10. mtflsmitty - Feb 23, 2013 at 2:08 AM

    Through Mid-October 2013:
    1. Golson (We will W or L with him. No more late game removals)
    2. TR (though he will only play one series per game in garbage time)
    3. Gunner (will get all remaining garbage time snaps)

    Third week of October Onward:
    1. Gunner (Will barge through a crack created by EG injury, turnovers, or continued slow EG development of some sort)
    2. Golson (Will still get 30% of game snaps as change of pace guy)
    3. TR (Will be remembered as a gamer, but will never play a meaningful snap again)

    • nudeman - Feb 23, 2013 at 11:01 AM

      Re: your points:
      EG … agree. He’s the man
      TR … nice kid, can’t play.
      GK … If EG gets hurt, BK will gowith TR, any time of year. I just saw too much TR loyalty in 2011 for me to believe that’s gone. And if I’m GK I’m royally pissed

      Interesting that your post doesn’t even mention AH
      I think we all see the handwriting on the wall there.

      • mtflsmitty - Feb 23, 2013 at 4:51 PM

        Yep. This team has grown past what AH might have been able to contribute. As you said, it’s a shame because he seems like a solid guy and is obviously an excellent athlete. I wonder if he could get back to baseball?

  11. ajw21 - Feb 23, 2013 at 7:57 AM

    Kelly purposely made the offense simple to benefit the defense. He went with a low risk offense to benefit Golson and help the defense. The year before we lost due to turnovers so he changed the offense to prevent turnovers and it worked. The offense will evolve as Golson matures. Golson will be the starter but Gunner will play due to injuries. Could be a quarter here and there or could be a game or 2. I see our D being just a notch below last year(stat wise) and I see our offense being much improved from last year. I think the main thing is red zone offense.
    Go Irish!

  12. padomer - Feb 23, 2013 at 12:04 PM

    ajw21, you nailed it. Turnovers costs us at least 3 games the year before, and didn’t want to put EG in a position to commit turnovers, and perhaps regress as a result. I don’t see anyway one can have a gripe with the way the O was handled last year all things considered. EG displays the ability to throw w some zip, which is encouraging moving into this year. I believe it will be this year that dav neal becomes a percy harvin like weapon, chris brown has 4+ 50+ yd grabs, dav daniels eclipses 1000 (or someone out of that pack).

    Call me boring but if we had to run the ball to a 60-40 split, I’d be more than pleased. I like to envision a team built on toughness and relies on a workhorse. However, whatever gets us back to the NC I am down with.

    Anybody for an option package being installed? Not used primarily, but be able to break it out here and there maybe 15-20% of the time…

    • ibleedirish - Feb 23, 2013 at 1:42 PM

      They do run option, and zone read option. Frequently.

  13. steincj36 - Feb 23, 2013 at 1:09 PM

    Really? Golson played a bad NC game? Hardly.

    Poor planning. Poor play calling. No adjustments to the crappy offensive game plan until halftime.

    Seriously, you can’t blame the QB for throwing the fade 20 times when the coach tells him to throw the fade 20 times. His arm is lively and accurate, and when he is told to put some mustard on it, he does. Don’t hate the player, hate the play.

    As far as this Golson getting hurt stuff, that’s only going to happen if our OL isn’t restocked or these new RBs can’t block a blitz. They coached Golson into running with 3 points of contact on the ball after Purdue (though it took some time), and they are continuing to coach him into running away from contact after Stanford. I don’t see him taking this beating everyone is predicting . . . Unless “can’t sidestep” GAIII is in the backfield trying to stop a backside blitz. Ouch.

    • nudeman - Feb 23, 2013 at 1:57 PM

      It’s simple:
      1) Any QB, regardless of style and size, is at greater risk of injury than any other position

      2) As a mobile QB (different from a “running” QB which is the most risky), EG increases the risk. I’m not complaining about that at all; just stating the fact that if you’re scrambling to escape a rush to pick up a 1st down on 3rd and 5 instead of throwing it into the 4th row … there is injury risk associated with that. You expose yourself to LBs and safeties who are 220 Lbs + who run 4.5 and want to bury you.

      So on any given play, EG could go down. Being 5’10” and 190 lbs doesn’t help. Odds are better than not that he’ll get hurt at some point.

      • bernhtp - Feb 23, 2013 at 8:00 PM

        Golson got knocked out of two games and missed one due to one of those injuries (concussion). The #2 will likely see quality time, not just garbage time.

        If I recall, Golson’s 40 time was third among the QBs; behind Kiel and Hendrix, but ahead of (obviously) you know who. Golson, though, is extremely quick and elusive and top-end speed is far less important at his position.

        Kiel, while more of a pro-style, is pretty fast and can pick up big yards on a scramble or designed run. I don’t think he is the bruiser fullback type that Hendrix is, but he isn’t too far behind. If you see him close up, you’ll be impressed by how big and muscular he is. With that said, both Hendrix and Crist were physically superior, but never put it together. Kiel will have his chance to show that he’s better.

  14. padomer - Feb 24, 2013 at 12:47 AM

    I liken GK’s speed to that of BQ (even though we only have spring game mop up as a sample). I believe GK’s package would be much different than EG’s in how EG gets many designed run plays. I certainly don’t see GK coming from the Colin Klein mold. Which is fine as long as he delivers from the pocket. And with EG and the forty time reportedly below AH and GK, he has good game speed, much better than I’ve ever seen from AH. He may be more quick in short bursts than a relay racer.

    To clarify on the option statement I made, I was thinking more along the lines of traditional wish-bone kinda stuff, I guess Navy style, not zone reads. And again, not to be used primarily, but to make defenses concern themselves with an added element, and I think it can be successful mixed in. Especially given the plethora of backs we have and the above average mobility from QB.

    • ibleedirish - Feb 24, 2013 at 9:32 AM

      I’m not opposed to some wishbone type option as a bit of a pace change. However in theory, the intent of the option is to level the playing field a bit when an undersized, less-skilled offense is facing better athletes on defense i.e. Navy. Notre Dame should now be at or above the physical skill level of any team they face (Oklahoma and USC may still be debatable exceptions). The other thing is, option isn’t as easy as it looks. Lots of pressure on the QB to make the right decision, and it really works best when run as a series of plays that “play” off of each other. Unless devoting a lot of time to it, it seems like more of a distraction. Just my take.

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