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Spring Solutions: Quarterback

Feb 18, 2014, 1:22 PM EDT

Everett Golson

After a year where everything seemingly went wrong at quarterback, it appears that things are on track to get back to normal. In the span of a calendar year, Notre Dame has had immense turnover at the quarterback position.

Consider this snapshot heading into spring practice last year:

Everett Golson: Three years of eligibility left, berth in BCS title game.
Tommy Rees: Veteran leader defined. Great back-up with starting experience.
Gunner Kiel: Elite prospect about to take redshirt off.
Andrew Hendrix: Former blue-chip recruit. Had chance to be “the guy,” now a situational option.
Malik Zaire: Developmental prospect enrolled a semester early.

That four of the five quarterbacks would find themselves at one point or another off the official Irish roster shows you the fragility of college football and illustrates quickly why college coaches go gray early.

So heading into spring, Notre Dame starts anew with Everett Golson, as Malik Zaire pushes him for playing time. Gone is Andrew Hendrix, a safety net of sorts, putting the Irish in the same type of precarious situation as last season, with depth behind the two of them precious little.

So before Deshone Kizer joins the team this summer, let’s look at the current depth chart heading into spring practice:


Everett Golson, Sr.*
Malik Zaire, Soph.*

*Signifies additional year of eligibility available.

Snaps won’t be hard to come by during practice and expect Matt LaFleur to have plenty of time to get to know Golson and Zaire this spring, with head coach Brian Kelly overseeing quarterback development as well. While the spring roster isn’t official yet, former Moeller quarterback Charlie Fiessinger will likely provide walk-on depth as well.


Everett Golson: There is so much for Golson to accomplish this spring. Consider this the short (and far from complete) list:

  1. Reassert leadership over the offensive.
  2. Find his voice as one of the team’s leaders.
  3. Get to know a wide receiving corps that has caught one pass from him.
  4. Meet his position coach and begin working with new coordinator Mike Denbrock.
  5. Get back into football mode after working mostly as an individual.
  6. Keep his academic house in order.

You could write a book about Golson’s getting re-acclimated to life under the Dome. First, he’ll need to address the waiting media circus that’ll surround his return to campus. Nobody has had a chance to speak with Golson on the record about life back at school. (The closest thing was an impromptu interview shot without official permission at the Meyo Invitational track meet where Golson wisely avoided all football topics.) But the sooner this gets out of the way the better for both Golson and the team.

That’s because there’s work to be done. The quarterback has a new offensive coordinator to work with in Mike Denbrock. He’s got a new position coach in Matt LaFleur. He’s got an entirely new depth chart at wide receiver. He’s also got to get back up to speed as a football player, after spending the last year training and working as an individual, far away from the team atmosphere.

Golson also needs to reassert himself as a team leader. The quarterback is always the de facto captain of the offense. We saw that last year with Tommy Rees, who still led the group even if Zack Martin and TJ Jones had the “C” on their jerseys. Golson will have the respect of his peers if he earns it back this spring. He’ll have the trust of his coaches if he puts in the time in the classroom and on the field.

But he’ll need to establish all of that in 15 practices, quite a challenge when you think about it.

Malik Zaire: Credit Brian Kelly for making it very clear that Zaire has every chance to win the starting quarterback job. For a coach that demands effort from every player on the depth chart, making it clear to not just Zaire but his entire roster that he’ll push Golson this spring is key.

Whether we should believe Zaire has a chance to play next season remains to be seen. While we heard great things about Zaire in his first spring on campus, the quarterback had a trying freshman season, knowing that he wasn’t seeing the field for strategic purposes.

“We lost him a little bit, quite honestly,” Kelly said of Zaire’s redshirt season. “When he sees himself as number three and a half, you know, and not getting in and not getting a lot of reps you lose a kid’s concentration a little bit.

“We lost him there for about four or five games.  Once we got his attention back, it was clear that he had a pretty good knowledge base of what we wanted to do. So I would tell you that by the end of the year, when we were quizzing him and saying, hey, listen, you have to be ready here, we felt like he had a pretty good knowledge base.”

If Zaire is lost this spring, it’s his fault. There’ll be two scholarship quarterbacks to take plenty of reps, and with the depth chart stacked at receiver and offensive line, there will be nothing but opportunity for the rising sophomore to show he’s ready to compete in fall camp.

  1. farwest99 - Feb 18, 2014 at 1:48 PM

    After reading the above story, one would think Golson wasn’t the starting QB in a national championship game.
    Kelly is blowing smoke.
    The only way as a starter Zaire ever sees the field this year is if Golson breaks a leg or worse.

    • irishdog80 - Feb 18, 2014 at 2:23 PM

      The issue is that Zaire needs to come into Spring Camp with the mentality that he is there to earn the starting job. The result is that Golson will be pushed and we will end up with a 2nd string QB that is ready for the playing field and not a “deer in the headlights”. QBs need to have some swagger about them to be successful and working to be 2nd string does not cut it. I want a Joe Montana/Steve Young type of situation where they push each other and there is no drop off.

      • dickasman - Feb 18, 2014 at 6:57 PM

        snoop, we all know how this works. Starter goes in, plays like sht, he gets pulled and next guy goes in. Simple. Its like that at most of 99% of the universities. What’s so hard about this? Unless Jerry Sanduskey has your back, then you might get a little bit more time before being “yanked”, pun intended.

        What is sooooo difficult about this? You have to wait your time no matter where you are and if you do get that opportunity, you have to make the most of it. Its like that pretty much everywhere.

    • dickasman - Feb 18, 2014 at 6:55 PM

      In lieu of another suspension and for the championship hunt, I am officially volunteering right now to do every one of Golson’s homework. Anybody else??? Cmon guys, team work!

      • jerseyshorendfan1 - Feb 19, 2014 at 12:43 AM

        It could be like when Rodney hired Kurt Vonnegut to write that paper for him. It might be fun. I’m in dickie, balls and all.

      • dickasman - Feb 19, 2014 at 2:44 AM

        Me too. We need to share a line and have a night out w escorts, just so I know you can be trusted

      • bb90grad - Feb 19, 2014 at 12:01 PM

        Flunk me, flunk him!

  2. shaunodame - Feb 18, 2014 at 2:58 PM

    “And the winner of the 2014 Heisman Trophy is Everett Golson from the University of Notre..” Cue the applause.

    But seriously, Golson might be the most legitimate shot we’ve had at producing a Heisman winner in quite some time, with respect to Manti Teo. ( and no Jimmy Clausen does NOT count). Though I’m sure, he I and and every ND fan would take a National Championship.

    Everett has the potential to do both, and that’s scary awesome.

    • 4horsemenrideagain - Feb 18, 2014 at 3:22 PM

      though we’ll both be derided as hopeless optimists, I agree with you shaunodame.

      in a perfect storm of ND football awesomeness (and one that is long overdue, I might add) this season could prove to be a confluence of various factors, the end result of which is a great record, some huge wins and big-time numbers for golson that catapult him into the Heisman talk.

      for one, with a new coordinator and lots of new[er] faces, ND’s front seven is going to have some growing up to do. while the front seven is struggling through defensive puberty, there will be a resultant pressure on the other side of the ball to simply outscore the opponent. thankfully, the offense has the weapons to score fast and often, and even a ball-control, manage the clock approach favors the prospects for quick/long strikes as opposing defenses will be faced with devoting more bodies to stopping the run, enabling EG and the speedsters on the outside to work their play-action magic and get the right match-ups and mismatches down the field. also, don’t forget about ben “i play tight end too” koyak. all he did last year was get behind defenders and catch touchdowns.

      so with increased efficiency with the run game opening up the field for EG and the talented receiving corps, he will have his chances to hang up some gaudy numbers, and with a defense that may bleed some points early on, this kind of production may be needed to win, or at least until the defense settles in and settles down.

      lastly, as a wise scholar once noted, all great stories are about either revenge or redemption. EG’s return has all the makings of a wonderful combination of the two; a young man eager to make up for his mistake and also devoted to proving his naysayers wrong. that’s a powerful narrative.

      • papadec - Feb 18, 2014 at 9:19 PM

        Well 4 horse, I have already passed through the hopeless optimist, and wearer of rose colored glasses phases. At 70, I’m just spending the kids inheritance on betting on the Irish to win the NC every year. The family whispers words like dementia, senile, crazy old coot. WTF. I’m having fun. GO IRISH!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • dickasman - Feb 19, 2014 at 2:46 AM

        Papa you sure are a one crazy Son of a Gun for 70 yr old. You remind me of Charlie sheen. What do you do? Retired?

      • papadec - Feb 19, 2014 at 4:04 PM

        dickie-san – retired last NOV 27th. Was a Systems Development Mgr in the first career, then just spent 12+ years working with Special Needs kids in a local school district.

  3. nudeman - Feb 18, 2014 at 3:21 PM

    I am just so happy that finally …

    … never mind.

    Go Irish.

    • jerseyshorendfan1 - Feb 18, 2014 at 3:28 PM

      Nude, you get funniest post of the day,

    • don74 - Feb 18, 2014 at 5:53 PM

      rounding into mid season form… careful not to peak too soon.

      • nudeman - Feb 18, 2014 at 8:18 PM

        Good advice don

    • dickasman - Feb 18, 2014 at 6:59 PM

      Hey gang, bang. Thought I’d just chime in. Have a Michael Sam day, ok?

    • rjshan - Feb 18, 2014 at 7:03 PM



      • dickasman - Feb 18, 2014 at 7:09 PM

        Jimmy VVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVV Baaaaaaaaaaabyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy. I just made a $5 donation.

    • viktory2013 - Feb 18, 2014 at 8:00 PM

      Mr. Nudeman,
      I’m actually afraid to say those magic words:
      “Ding dong, the Rees is…”
      Don’t want to jinx it, he might somehow find another year of eligibility.

      Golson and Zaire won’t have any trouble focusing this season. They both saw how cold it was outside and both have a second chance. I see Zaire playing in every game, and having Golson’s back, I’d wager the dropoff will be less and less as the season goes on.

      • idratherbeinsouthbend - Feb 18, 2014 at 10:55 PM

        “Mr. Nudeman” Bahahah….can you get nudey dong any further down your throat LMAO

    • viktory2013 - Feb 19, 2014 at 4:38 PM


      We’re adults chatting about football here. Watch your mouth pal

      • idratherbeinsouthbend - Feb 19, 2014 at 11:28 PM

        I think you meant “watch your fingers pal”

        lighten up champ. We are adults, but we’re not prudes.

  4. mmanor01 - Feb 18, 2014 at 3:38 PM

    Off topic, but I re-watched the 2012 ND vs USC game this past weekend and Mathias Farley was all over the field making strong tackles (especially in the red zone). Bennett Jackson also looked for the ball on almost every deep throw by Witek. Interesting that both these guys completely regressed in 2013. Hopefully, Shumate beats out Farley for the starting position. If not, maybe Farley finds some of that mojo he had in 2012.

    • irishdog80 - Feb 18, 2014 at 5:32 PM

      Farley seems to be a good kid and definitely made some plays in 2012…and some not so good plays. In short, no pun intended…have you seen Farley in person?…Farley is a solid contributor on a great defense. On a less than great defense and against better QBs than Wittek, Farley got exposed. Plus their is getting exposed and there is looking slow and unathletic while getting exposed. Someone like Redfield might make a misplay, but then has the recovery speed and athleticism to keep the mistakes to a minimum. A secondary of Riggs, Russel, Redfield and Shumate is my preference.

      • irishdog80 - Feb 18, 2014 at 6:16 PM

        There. Also mixing in up and coming players like Luke and Watkins among others would be ideal. We just looked too slow at Safety last year. They needed to make quicker reads to make up for their lack of speed. I want to see Safeties that are flying over the top for interceptions and chasing down receivers that beat a CB. Oh and guys that deliver bell ringing hits would also be nice…receivers need to be scared to go over the middle.

      • dickasman - Feb 18, 2014 at 7:08 PM

        It would be nice if Redfield could make a difference. He’s the prototype safety.

  5. NotreDan - Feb 18, 2014 at 6:12 PM

    I don’t understand the lines through the names… if it means LAST year, why are TR and AH crossed off? If it means THIS year, why is EG’s name crossed off?


    • NotreDan - Feb 18, 2014 at 6:16 PM

      oh, and the follow-up remark… 4 of the five AREN’T gone this year, and weren’t gone last year?

    • dickasman - Feb 18, 2014 at 7:01 PM

      I guess Keith just assumed that he will get suspended again. Oh well…Thank god we have a 5 star bonafide, experienced back up readily available….Oh wait…

    • dickasman - Feb 18, 2014 at 7:07 PM

      Dan, maybe they’re cokeheads and love to snort lines???

      I love it! ____________________________________________________________Nostril

    • Keith Arnold - Feb 19, 2014 at 1:44 PM

      At different times over the past year, these people have been deleted from the roster.

  6. oldschoollyons - Feb 18, 2014 at 6:34 PM

    Kelly did not say that Zaire has a chance to be the starter this year. He said Zaire will have a chance to “compete for” the starting QB position. That’s what Kelly said about Lo Wood last year: that he would have a chance to “compete” for the cornerback position. Later in the summer, when a reporter asked Kelly who the starting corner would be, Kelly was incredulous. He said Russell is the starter. There’s no “competition” to be the starter, Kelly said. So when Kelly says Zaire will have a chance to “compete for” the starting QB job, what he means is that he wants Zaire to practice hard and try to win the starter’s job. That will make both Golson (as starter) and Zaire (as back-up) better.

    As for “losing” Golson for four or five games last year, Kelly is just setting up a rationale in case Zaire outplays Golson again in the Blue-Gold game. Kelly said Zaire is at his best in competition and did his best playing last year in the Spring game. So if Zaire outshines Golson again in that game, Kelly will be able to say that yes, Zaire played better; but he will base his decision on the player’s body of work. Kelly intends to name Golson the starter. He’s set it up so that he can say that he “loses” Zaire when he is not in a game.

    That Kelly “lost” Golson for games last year is baloney, of course. Golson missed four or five games with mononucleosis. Then Kelly was publicly furious with him for tweeting that he was thrilled to have finally gotten the okay from the team doctors to play again. Now Kelly is just laying the groundwork for a rationale as to why he chooses Golson as the starter in case Zaire appears to be the better player. That could happen. Zaire was the far-higher rated player out of high school and did much better in the Elite 11 competition. So Kelly has gotten his reasons out there in case he needs them.

    • mcirish27 - Feb 18, 2014 at 6:43 PM


      • dickasman - Feb 18, 2014 at 7:03 PM


    • NotreDan - Feb 18, 2014 at 8:58 PM

      Wtf?? Fail

      • dickasman - Feb 18, 2014 at 10:26 PM

        WTF? ure

  7. dickasman - Feb 18, 2014 at 7:02 PM

    That’s just coach talk. Golson will start unless he contracts herpes and is too itchy to start. Its his job to lose no matter what.

    • jommy995 - Feb 19, 2014 at 2:09 AM

      His job is to win, dammit!

  8. idratherbeinsouthbend - Feb 18, 2014 at 11:02 PM

    Nobody else here concerned about the depth chart having only TWO quarterbacks?

    And for Keith….I’m pretty sure that you just disrespected Charlie Fiessinger by omitting him from this article. The guys a solid #3 (cause he’s the only #3). Shows up to work every day. Red cap in hand. Touches the PLACT sign. Where’s the love…WHERE’S THE LUV KEITH

    • 1historian - Feb 19, 2014 at 11:56 AM

      Starting QB
      primary backup
      (this year) – preferred walk-on
      redshirt freshman

  9. fnc111 - Feb 19, 2014 at 4:03 PM

    I can’t believe Kelly didn’t go after any of the QB transfers, including Lunt or Mayfield, that have taken place across the nation the last year.

  10. cpfirish - Feb 20, 2014 at 9:01 AM

    We all know that Golson will be our QB this year. Zaire will ready and his all the talent in the world. It will be an exciting year, no more one dimension were defenses can load the box to stop the run cause we have pass threat! Spring game is right around the corner!! Go Irish!

  11. rpbags - Feb 20, 2014 at 7:49 PM

    College football is a crazy sport and it is hard to say from year to year but I think that this year we will see the offense that we have been waiting to see and I also think that the defense will be better than expected. The schedule is gonna be tough but I think that even at 11-1 Nd can get into the playoff this year! Just my humble opinion of course and as always…Let’s Go Irish!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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