Notre Dame fans are learning just how important the play of the quarterback can be in Brian Kelly's offense. During the past four seasons, Kelly has seen three quarterbacks step up and deliver the goods. Dayne Crist may be struggling some now, but should continue to improve.
That brings up a question many have had about the future at the position.
How do the two freshmen compare?
Who has the advantage to excel in seasons to come?
Let us break it down.
During the junior and senior seasons of Luke Massa and Andrew Hendrix, I had the chance to watch them in multiple games as well as look at several games on film. Going back over notes on each, I will try to give you a sense of who may have an advantage in the years to come at Notre Dame.
Set up quickness, positioning, balance:
Hendrix: Andrew took the majority of his high school snaps from the shotgun position. He does a great job of getting himself in position to make a strong throw while keeping good balance and bounce in his step to have proper technique.
Massa: Luke also took the majority of his snaps from the shotgun position and also shown the ability to position himself ready to make a strong throw with proper technique.
Hendrix: This is an area that Andrew may have a slight advantage over Luke. Andrew is more compact in where he positions the ball prior to its release. He has a short compact delivery and snaps the ball.
Massa: Because of his physical build, Luke shows more of a long delivery. The release is quick, but a lot more arm action from what Hendrix shows.
Hendrix: With more games played at the high school level Hendrix had more of a chance for failure in this area. However, Andrew has always been around the mid 50% range in his accuracy.
Massa: This is the area I have found Luke to be solid. As a senior at St. Xavier, Luke hit for just over 65%.
Judgment and decision-making:
Hendrix: Andrew is solid here but not shown greatness as a high school player. One reason Andrew may look better if we were only looking at stats, is he is more willing to pull the ball down and run. While this is a good trait to have in Brian Kelly's offense, quarterbacks who can continue a play and make the solid pass have always fared better and made the offense run better.
Massa: This is where I feel Luke may have his biggest advantage. In high school, he showed good judgment and the knack for hitting hot receivers for big plays. He also showed the willingness to get as much out of a play without putting the offense at a disadvantage by losing yards.
Hendrix: Andrew is more of a natural in reading his progressions and finding the open receivers.
Massa: Luke shows more of the ability to know where the ball is to be making sure it is delivered when it is needed.
Hendrix: Andrew is strong here as he showed during his two seasons as the starting quarterback at Moeller High School. He is hard to rattle and shows great leadership abilities.
Massa: Over the two years of watching Luke, I cannot remember a time where I feel Luke showed panic during the heat of battle. I remember two games when Luke was a junior that showed the poise to be a top quality signal caller. Against Prattville (AL) and Don Bosco Prep (NJ), Luke did not have great games. However, he stayed within himself and managed his team to victory in both hard fought games.
Hendrix: Andrew has a great advantage in this area, as he is fast and capable of being more of a running back.
Massa: Luke shows great ability to escape but looks to make the throw or to get out of bounds.
Rollout passing (right and left):
Hendrix: Andrew has more of a traditional throwing motion when he rolls out. He has the arm strength needed to make the throws from both directions, but at times will pass up the chance to throw to an open receiver to run it himself.
Arm Strength, Velocity, Touch & Timing:
Hendrix: Andrew throws a harder and stronger pass than Luke but is also more likely to throw an interception. He shows good velocity and timing with his throws but needs to continue working on his touch, as at times he will overpower the ball. Andrew has thrown more to the receiver he finds that is open.
Massa: This is where Luke finds his niche in the Brian Kelly offense as he does a solid job of knowing where the ball needs to go and whom the right read should be on any given play. His arm is above average and he can make all the throws. He shows great touch and does a great job on timing routes.
With Brian Kelly's choice to keep both Hendrix and Massa on the sidelines this fall may be questioned by some. The overall development of both players is critical for the future success of the Irish program.
Both players have the tools to play in the system and play at a high level. Many will give Hendrix the upper hand due to the amount of attention he received during the recruiting process and the number of offers he totaled over Massa. However, keep in mind that Massa missed his season opener as a junior while also missing his team's final five games because of injury.
While both players share some of the same strengths, it is where they differ that made Brian Kelly's decision to bring both to campus in the Class of 2010 an easy one.
While Luke Massa shows many of the abilities we have have seen from other quarterbacks that have succeeded in Kelly's offense, there will always be the question of durability.
Andrew Hendrix brings the ability to tuck the ball and run with a running back's mentality. He is faster than many know and is not afraid to put his helmet down and deliver a hit or take one.
This spring and camp in 2011 will find one of these two quarterbacks taking a step ahead of the other. Who will it be? Time will only tell.