Everett Golson

Restocking: Quarterbacks


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.


Irish prepared to take on the best Navy team in years


Brian Kelly opens every Tuesday press conference with compliments for an opponent. But this week, it was easy to see that his kind words for Navy were hardly lip service.

Ken Niumatalolo will bring his most veteran—and probably his most talented—group of Midshipmen into Notre Dame Stadium, looking to hand the Irish their first loss in the series since Kelly’s debut season in South Bend.

“Ken Niumatalolo has done an incredible job in developing his program and currently carrying an eight-game winning streak,” Kelly said. “I voted for them in USA Today Top 25 as a top-25 team. I think they’ve earned that. But their defense as well has developed. It’s played the kind of defense that I think a top 25 team plays.”

With nine months of option preparation, Notre Dame needs to feel confident about their efforts against Georgia Tech. Then again, the Midshipmen saw that game plan and likely have a few tricks in store.

As much as the Irish have focused their efforts on stopping Keenan Reynolds and the triple-option, Navy’s much-improved defense is still looking for a way to slow down a team that’s averaged a shade over 48 points a game against them the last four seasons.

Niumatalolo talked about that when asked about slowing down Will Fuller and Notre Dame’s skill players, an offense that’s averaged over 48 points a game during this four-game win streak.

“We’ve got to try our best to keep [Fuller] in front of us, that’s easier said than done,” Niumatalolo said. “We’ve got to play as close as we can without their guys running past us. I’ve been here a long time and we’re still trying to figure out how to do that.”


Navy heads to South Bend unbeaten, defeating former Irish defensive coordinator Bob Diaco‘s team just two Saturdays ago. And while Diaco raised a few eyebrows when he said Navy would be the team’s toughest test of the year (they already played a ranked Missouri team), the head of the UConn program couldn’t have been more effusive in his praise.

“I have been competing against Navy for some time and this is the best Navy team I have seen for, let’s say the last half-dozen years,” UConn coach Bob Diaco told the New Haven Register. “I could click on footage from three years ago and see a lion’s share of players who are playing right now in the game as freshmen and sophomores. They have a veteran group, a strong group, a talented group and they look like the stiffest competition among our first four opponents.”

As usual, there will be those who look at this game as the breather between Clemson and USC. That won’t be anybody inside The Gug. So as the Irish try to get back to their winning ways in front of a home crowd, a complete team effort is needed.

“I’ll take a win by one,” Kelly said Tuesday. “That would be fine with me.”


Kelly confident Robinson will rebound

Notre Dame v Florida State

Corey Robinson‘s season was already off to a slow start. And that was before a difficult night at Clemson. The junior receiver came into last weekend with only four catches, held out against UMass after a pregame tweak of his knee put a scare into the Irish.

Robinson’s knee checked out fine. But mentally, it appears that the sure-handed junior is struggling.

Just before halftime against the Tigers, Robinson failed to reel in a long catch that would’ve given the Irish a much-needed touchdown heading into half. Early in the fourth quarter, a high throw from DeShone Kizer on the Irish’s first failed two-point conversion play slid through Robinson’s hands. Made worse was a mental mistake by Robinson, the Irish needing to use one of their second half timeouts when the junior wasn’t on the field.

Coached hard on the sideline by Brian Kelly and coached up by his position coach Mike Denbrock (as we saw on both Showtime and Fighting Irish Media’s ICON), the staff is doing it’s best to get Robinson’s confidence back.

With some wondering if Robinson’s struggles should open the door for talented freshman Equanimeous St. Brown, Kelly talked about their belief that the junior will return to form.

“Corey Robinson is going to get the job done. I had a very lengthy conversation with him yesterday,” Kelly said Tuesday. “I believe in Corey. Corey’s got to believe in himself, and he will. He’s got to go attack the football. He’s letting the football come to him. He’s letting it eat him up a little bit, but I believe in Corey.”

There’s no better place to showcase that belief than against Navy. The Midshipmen don’t have a defender physically capable of matching up with the 6-foot-5 Robinson, who will likely face his share of single coverage with Will Fuller likely demanding safety help.

Then it’s just a matter of Robinson showing the hands and confidence that made him one of last year’s most consistent performers.

“Once he starts attacking the football, I think we’re going to see somebody that can make the plays that we expect him to make,” Kelly said. “So I’m optimistic that we’re going to see the guy that we need to see on Saturday.”