From the looks of it, more than a few Notre Dame fans have come out of hibernation. After last year’s dream season came to a crashing halt, it’s more than understandable that some Irish fans decided to take a few months off before returning to the fray.
But that hasn’t stopped us. So with just over two weeks to go before the Irish kick things off against Temple, we present you a Du Lac approved crib sheet that should get you up to speed for the upcoming season.
(We’ll even spare you the Everett Golson jokes.)
Heading into spring practice, the quarterback depth chart hadn’t looked better in at least a decade. With Everett Golson, the Irish had a returning starter that looked like he had star qualities. In Tommy Rees, Notre Dame had one of the most experienced back-ups in the country. Gunner Kiel was a five-star prospect who had just taken the redshirt off and Andrew Hendrix was a guy that could help the Irish in some situational packages. Add in a promising true freshman in Malik Zaire, and trying to find reps to keep everybody happy seemed like the biggest challenge for Brian Kelly.
That certainly isn’t the case entering the season. Gone is Kiel, transferred to Cincinnati where he’ll sit out the season but have the inside track for a starting job that may have never come in South Bend. But the biggest surprise was the loss of Golson, who is not enrolled for the fall semester after some academic improprieties, costing him the ’13 season.
What looked like a five man scholarship depth chart is now down to three, forcing Tommy Rees back into the starting lineup. It’s a familiar spot for Rees, though he’s never had the comfort of knowing the job was his heading into a season.
Let’s take a look at the depth chart and do some projecting.
1. Tommy Rees, Sr. #11
2. Andrew Hendrix, Sr. #12
3. Malik Zaire, Fr. #8
4. Charlie Fiessinger, Jr. #17
It’s scary to think it, but Rees might be the most irreplaceable skill player on the Irish roster right now. There’s a major drop in offensive acumen from Rees to Hendrix, and any injury to Rees would necessitate taking off Zaire’s redshirt, something this coaching staff doesn’t want to do unless necessary.
Rees is far from a perfect player, as evidenced by his first two years playing. While accurate, he’s short an arm that can make all the throws and was loose with the football, a major reason the ’11 team didn’t reach their potential. All that being said, there’s a belief inside the program that the Irish offense won’t miss a step with Rees back behind center. While he’s got to clean up some of the mistakes that plagued him as a sophomore, he’s four years into Kelly’s system and is comfortable with what he can and can’t do. While it’s easy to think about what could have been with Golson behind center, it’s downright scary to think about what life would be like without Rees.
Looking even farther into the crystal ball, it’ll be interesting to see what happens this spring. While the intention is to have Golson back, counting on him before seeing him in South Bend isn’t a certainty. But with only DeShone Kizer in the recruiting class at quarterback, what happens with Hendrix seems to be the big question. With a degree in hand, Hendrix will have multiple opportunities both on and off the field. Will he stick around to play a final season and compete for time? Will he go to another college where a job is there for the taking? Or will he hang it up and go to med school?
Those questions can be answered later. But after starting with a meeting room short on chairs, the Irish offense needs to have a bit of good luck to reach its potential this year.