Everett Golson

Restocking: Quarterbacks

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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.

2009
Empty

2010
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.

2011
Everett Golson — A long time commit to North Carolina, Golson was Kelly’s first true dual-threat QB.

2012
Gunner Kiel — A whirlwind recruitment ended with Kiel enrolling at ND, to Les Miles’ surprise.

2013
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.

 

Drue Tranquill named first-team Academic All-American

Drue Tranquill
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Drue Tranquill was named a first-team Academic All-American. The junior safety, who returned from his second major knee injury during his three-year career, earned the honors after posting a 3.74 GPA in mechanical engineering.

Tranquill is Notre Dame’s first academic All-American since Corey Robinson earned the honor after the 2014 season. He finished second on the team in tackles with 79 and lead the team in solo stops with 52. He also had two TFLs and an interception.

Tranquill is Notre Dame’s 60th Academic All-American, the third-most of any school behind Nebraska and Penn State. He’s active in the university community, serving as a mentor for the Core Leadership Team for Lifeworks Ministry, and is a member of Notre Dame Christian Athletes. He is a also member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) and Rosenthal Leadership Academy.

 

Postseason Mailbag: Now Open

SAN ANTONIO, TX - NOVEMBER 12: Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly leads his team onto the field before the start of their game against Army in a NCAA college football game at the Alamodome on November 12, 2016 in San Antonio, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
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It’s been too long. Let’s talk about the season, the decisions ahead and where Notre Dame stands after its nightmare of a 2016 season.

Drop your questions on Twitter @KeithArnold or in the comments below.

 

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If you’re interested in hearing my recap on the USC game and where Notre Dame’s goes now that the season is over, give a listen to the latest episode of Blown Coverage, with Newsweek’s John Walters. 

 

Report: Zaire set to depart with graduate transfer

Malik Zaire
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The wheels are in motion for Malik Zaire‘s exit from Notre Dame. What felt like an inevitability after Zaire lost out to DeShone Kizer after the Texas game is now a reality, as the Ohio native is expected to receive his release tomorrow, according to a report from Pete Sampson at Irish Illustrated.

Sampson identified four programs as potential landing spots for Zaire: Florida, Pitt, Michigan State and Wisconsin, Power Five programs that all had better seasons (minus the Spartans) than Notre Dame. All have uncertainty atop their quarterback depth chart, though none look like guaranteed jobs.

With Notre Dame out of a bowl, Zaire can get a jump start on looking around, capable of taking visits and finding a home after the semester. That would let him join a program in time for spring drills, where he’d compete and be able to play out his final year of eligibility.

When Zaire leaves he’ll join a line of recent quarterbacks to finish their eligibility elsewhere. Dayne Crist, Andrew Hendrix, Gunner Kiel and Everett Golson all either played or were recruited by Brian Kelly and finished their careers elsewhere. That could leave a scenario—one many predict—where the top-two on Notre Dame’s depth chart depart, Kizer to the NFL and Zaire elsewhere, turning the keys over to Brandon Wimbush who redshirted this season.

Tillery apologizes for actions during USC game

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Sophomore Jerry Tillery issued an apology for two controversial incidents against USC. Notre Dame’s defensive tackle was flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after a referee caught him stepping on Zach Banner‘s ankle. Cameras also spotted him intentionally hitting Aca’Cedric Ware‘s head after the Trojan running back was injured after a collision with Nicco Fertitta.

Tillery wrote on Twitter:

“I want to take full responsibility for my actions on Saturday. I am truly sorry. I acted in a way that was out of character for me. What I displayed in those two instances were completely unbecoming and not indicative of the kind of player or person I am. My actions in those two instances do not represent what my family or Notre Dame has molded me to be. I want to especially apologize to Aca’Cedric, Zach, their families and anyone else affected by what I did. I assure you I will learn and grow from this moment and become a better man because of it.”

While the backlash on social media has been harsh, USC head coach Clay Helton downplayed it.

“It was a poor decision by a young person. I know it’s not Notre Dame football and I know that’s not Brian Kelly,” Helton said. “He’s been a class act the whole way and I know he’ll address it with his player and handle it in a way that he sees fit. I have always found Brian to be a man of class and integrity.”

Ware himself responded via Twitter, doing his best to put the incident to rest.

Kelly stated after the game that he’d review the incidents, both plays Kelly didn’t see happen live. With the season over, Tillery’s discipline will be handled internally.