Skip to content

Analyzing the quarterback options

May 31, 2013, 6:00 AM EDT

Brian Kelly BCS

Everett Golson intends to return to Notre Dame after his suspension. That’s the good news. But for Brian Kelly and his coaching staff, there’s no planning for good intentions, and right now the quarterback depth chart looks vastly different without Golson at the top of it.

The once robust quarterback group had a very tough spring. Most wondered how Kelly could keep five scholarship quarterbacks happy. Gunner Kiel’s departure — before participating in spring practice — was the predictable move. But the haymaker Golson’s academic indiscretions put on the overall health of the quarterback spot can’t be understated.

Let’s take a quick look at what’s left of the quarterback depth chart.

QB DEPTH CHART (Years of Eligibility)
Everett Golson (3)
Tommy Rees (1)
Andrew Hendrix (2)
Gunner Kiel (4)
Malik Zaire (4)

While Brian Kelly wasn’t willing to name a starting quarterback in his brief chat with the media, it’s difficult to imagine a scenario where Tommy Rees doesn’t start against Temple. After three seasons in the program and a 14-4 record as a starting quarterback, Rees was regarded as one of the best back-up quarterbacks in the country.

That’s not to say the transition back to leading man will be easy. Anybody who has watched Notre Dame football the past few seasons has seen Rees’ limitations. His propensity to turn the football over in 2011 was one of the main reasons the Irish hit the reboot button on the offense last season. But any damnation of the Irish offense with Rees as its pilot isn’t just premature, it’s silly. Sure, a large portion of the playbook might have just gone in the recycling bin. But with a strong running game and some athletic personnel, an improved Rees will help this offense take a step forward, even if it wasn’t the leap many expected Golson to provide.

Outside of Rees is where things get a little tricky. One of the biggest ripple effects in the Golson saga is the role of Andrew Hendrix. Once looked at by some as the future at quarterback, Hendrix was likely to play out his senior season as a third-stringer before moving on to medical school or a smaller program where he could potentially play out his final season of eligibility.

All of that changes now. Hendrix has always talked about getting his degree from Notre Dame. That will happen this year. But will he — and the coaching staff — make the mutual decision to return for the ’14 season? That might hinge on Golson’s academic progress, and Hendrix’s postgraduate options.

That both Kelly and offensive coordinator Chuck Martin have raved about Malik Zaire’s football acumen isn’t coincidental. That much was apparent at the Elite 11 camps, where Zaire was more impressive than Golson or Kiel, two Irish quarterbacks that came through the pipeline in previous seasons. Yet Zaire is a true freshman with limited experience throwing the football, operating a run-heavy offense for most of his high school career. Many Irish fans want the future to begin now, but with the personnel the Irish have and a stout defense on the other side of the ball, bringing Zaire along slowly seems like the most logical plan of attack.

Yet any hope for a redshirt season is likely out the window. If Kelly and Martin think Zaire can help them win, he’ll be on the field. That could be running a zone-read package. It could be in the red zone, where the Irish struggled mightily last season. It most likely will be in mop-up time or selected series, giving the young quarterback the chance to learn on the job and develop on the practice field. No head coach in college football is more adept at mixing and matching quarterbacks, and Kelly will look back on the season he had at Cincinnati where he played five quarterbacks and utilize that experience this fall.

That experience will help the Irish get through this season. But with the very real possibility that Golson doesn’t return, Rees graduates, and Hendrix moves on, there’s an added priority to recruiting quarterbacks that nobody saw coming until last weekend.

The Irish only had one quarterback offer out before the spring, with that going to dual-threat athlete Brandon Dawkins from Oaks Christian, Jimmy Clausen’s old stomping grounds. But how high the Irish are on Dawkins anymore is anyone’s guess, as the prep quarterback tweeted his attempts at committing to the Irish last week and there’s been no news as to whether either player or team was willing to formalize things.

While the coaching staff has expanded their list to include national names like Arizona’s Kyle Allen and a few select others, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the target list shift from potentially skipping a cycle at the position to Notre Dame accepting the commitment of two quarterbacks next February. If they were able to mix and match a drop-back type with a dual-threat athlete, they could at least restock the two skillsets that departed this spring in Kiel and Golson.

At a position that once looked locked up for the next three seasons, the future has never been more cloudy. Could Golson’s exile be the Wally Pipp opportunity Malik Zaire needed? Will it keep Andrew Hendrix in South Bend for another year? Does it give Tommy Rees the chance to complete a true hero’s journey? All are scenarios that could likely unfold.

But don’t expect Kelly and company to get wrapped up in the hypotheticals. They’ve got too much work to do.

 

Latest Posts
  1. Last looks: Wide receivers

    Aug 31, 2015, 4:12 PM EDT

    Notre Dame v Florida State Getty Images

    Notre Dame’s wide receiving depth chart features talent at just about every level. Starting with All-American candidate and sophomore record-setter Will Fuller and working down to freshmen like Equanimeous St. Brown and C.J. Sanders, top to bottom this is the most exciting set of playmakers the Irish have had at the position in, maybe—ever?

  2. Mailbag: Special teams, depth, dark clouds and more

    Aug 31, 2015, 11:37 AM EDT

    William Fuller, Julian Whigham, Durell Eskridge William Fuller, Julian Whigham, Durell Eskridge

    Let’s get the rest of the mailbag finished off so we can concentrate on game week. (Feels really good to type that sentence.) Thanks again for some great questions.

  3. Mailbag: Kizer’s chances, the D’s experience and play-calling

    Aug 30, 2015, 3:34 PM EDT

    Purdue v Notre Dame Purdue v Notre Dame

    There are a ton of good questions to get to so this will roll out in multiple parts. Many thanks for the thoughtful work. (And some nice examples of brevity.)

  4. Last looks: Tight ends

    Aug 29, 2015, 3:19 PM EDT

    South Bend Tribune South Bend Tribune

    After a long line of starters with plenty of experience, Notre Dame’s tight ends all but start over in 2015. Scott Booker’s position group comes in with all sorts of intriguing traits. Unfortunately, none of those are experience.

  5. Brian Kelly on Dan Patrick Show

    Aug 28, 2015, 2:50 PM EDT

    TheDanPatrickShow

    Brian Kelly was on the Dan Patrick Show this morning and the Irish head coach got his last weekend without a game started by chatting it up with the popular radio host. While Kelly didn’t make any headlines in the interview, he did conduct it from his desk with a Showtime crew hanging a boom mic over his head, part of life with a documentary film crew following him around.

  6. Last looks: Offensive line

    Aug 28, 2015, 1:04 PM EDT

    Purdue v Notre Dame Purdue v Notre Dame

    Just about everybody expects Harry Hiestand’s offensive line to be a dominant unit. But after months of preseason hype, they now need to prove they can do it.

  7. Williams loses NCAA appeal, college career over

    Aug 27, 2015, 8:48 PM EDT

    USC v Notre Dame Getty Images

    Ishaq Williams’ college football career is over. Notre Dame’s exiled defensive end, who sat out last season as part of a two-semester suspension for his role in the “frozen five” academic dishonesty investigation, has lost his NCAA appeal for reinstatement. Brian Kelly shared the news on Thursday after practice

  8. Brian Kelly names five team captains for 2015 team

    Aug 27, 2015, 8:25 PM EDT

    2015 Team Captains

    The votes are in and Notre Dame’s football team will be captained by five players. Graduate students Matthias Farley, Nick Martin and Joe Schmidt will be joined by senior Sheldon Day and junior Jaylon Smith as the captains of the 2015 Irish.

  9. Bryant begins Juco career, opens up recruitment

    Aug 27, 2015, 12:34 PM EDT

    Notre Dame v Syracuse Getty Images

    It appears that the Greg Bryant era at Notre Dame is over. The junior running back, who was declared academically ineligible to play for the Irish this fall, has enrolled at ASA Miami, a junior college with a new football program run by former Irish assistant Ernest Jones.

  10. Last looks: Running back

    Aug 27, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl Getty Images

    After two seasons of trying to find carries for a handful of emerging running backs, Notre Dame has the opposite problem: Trying to spread out a growing workload among a smaller, highly-differentiated position group.

  11. Last looks: Defensive line

    Aug 26, 2015, 1:56 PM EDT

    North Carolina v Notre Dame Getty Images

    With the season right around the corner and preseason camp finished, it’s time to get our final preparations done before the games start counting and the journey begins. We spent the summer pumping out tens of thousands of words on Notre Dame’s evolving roster, so if you’re looking for 50 hours of easy reading, check out the Irish A-to-Z series.

  12. Now Open: Final preseason mailbag

    Aug 26, 2015, 12:42 PM EDT

    New Mailbox

    Have a final question before we have actual football to talk about? Today’s the day. Drop them below or on Twitter @KeithArnold.

  13. It’s here: Video board going into south end zone at Notre Dame

    Aug 25, 2015, 5:06 PM EDT

    Updated Notre Dame Stadium

    Notre Dame announced a number of enhancements to Notre Dame Stadium on Tuesday. Most notable among them, a video board that’ll go atop the south end zone.

  14. Irish A-to-Z: Malik Zaire

    Aug 25, 2015, 12:45 PM EDT

    Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl Getty Images

    Our final installment of the A-to-Z series is perhaps our most important one. Because Notre Dame’s fate is in the hands of quarterback Malik Zaire.

  15. Butler makes surprise ascent to third cornerback role

    Aug 24, 2015, 2:18 PM EDT

    Purdue v Notre Dame Purdue v Notre Dame

    With the injury to freshman cornerback Shaun Crawford, an unlikely candidate has emerged as the frontrunner for the No. 3 cornerback job: Devin Butler. The junior, who struggled mightily at times last season after he was forced into action, looked to have lost his grip on that spot this spring after strong work by sophomore Nick Watkins.

  16. Irish A-to-Z: Justin Yoon

    Aug 24, 2015, 12:27 PM EDT

    Yoon

    No freshman will be tossed into the deep end quicker than kicker Justin Yoon. Essentially Notre Dame’s sole option to kick field goals in 2015, Brian Kelly and the Irish coaching staff are putting a ton of the shoulders of a true freshman, who’ll be asked to fix a three-point operation that went haywire down the stretch after the Irish’s all-time field goal leader Kyle Brindza lost his mojo.

  17. Irish A-to-Z: Brandon Wimbush

    Aug 23, 2015, 10:45 AM EDT

    St.Peter's Prep signing day ceremony St.Peter's Prep signing day ceremony

    When Brandon Wimbush enrolled in school this summer, he became the latest blue-chip quarterback to join the Notre Dame football program with the burden of great expectations. The New Jersey state player of the year, Wimbush would be wise to forget about the prep accolades, instead focusing his efforts on learning the playbook, with the third-string quarterback closer to the field than you’d ideally want.

  18. Even without Jones, expectations clear for Gilmore’s DL

    Aug 21, 2015, 12:12 PM EDT

    Blue & Gold Illustrated Blue & Gold Illustrated

    Keith Gilmore’s move to Notre Dame reunites him with Brian VanGorder, two football lifers who have known each other since they shared a huddle as players. After a long coaching career, Gilmore also reunites with Brian Kelly, a coach he’s worked for at Grand Valley, Central Michigan, Cincinnati and now Notre Dame.

  19. Irish A-to-Z: Mykelti Williams

    Aug 21, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    Property of Indianapolis Star Property of Indianapolis Star

    Notre Dame landed another Indianapolis product when safety Mykelti Williams joined the Irish this summer, the freshman lending some much needed depth to the secondary. Hailing from Warren Central, the same program that brought Notre Dame Sheldon Day, Williams’ might not contribute as quickly as Day did, but he’ll have a chance to compete for a spot in the two deep behind Max Redfield at free safety.

  20. Irish A-to-Z: Dexter Williams

    Aug 20, 2015, 12:54 PM EDT

    Orlando Sentinel Orlando Sentinel

    With Notre Dame’s running back depth chart down Greg Bryant, freshman Dexter Williams has a clear line to the football field this fall. While wide receiver Justin Brent has converted to the backfield and Tarean Folston returns as a starter, Williams and fellow freshman Josh Adams couldn’t ask for a more advantageous situation, especially with C.J. Prosise taking time to heal an ailing hip flexor.