Notre Dame fans in attendance (or monitoring on TV) won't get a glimpse of the on-field product next fall, but the 82nd annual Blue Gold Game will offer fans a chance to see the Irish squad in a competitive setting for the first time this calendar year, with a pair of signal-callers the focal point for amateur scouts looking to sharpen their football-starved eyes.
"The spring game is going to be fun for me, because Dayne and Tommy won't get a lot of work," Kelly said following today's practice, the team's 13th of the spring. "This is going to be (Everett) Golson vs. (Andrew) Hendrix, really, relative to the offense and they're going to do everything.
"They'll be live; they're going to run the ball and throw, so we'll get a really good feeling for both those guys because we know those other two guys can win football games."
It appears Saturday's only guarantee is that the young QB pair will wake up sorer than usual Sunday morning.
"Taking it easy would not be something that I would do with anybody, but I would be smart with them," said Kelly when asked about the team's depleted running backs corps. "Cierre Wood is not going to get a lot of carries – I have a good feel what he can do. Jonas (Gray) is not going to get a lot. So you'll see a lot of young guys, and the quarterback is going to run a lot. You'll see the quarterbacks as the biggest (part) of the running game."
Neither will don the red jersey that signifies a stop sign for approaching defenders. Of course, even said defenders will be attacking in more of a traditional, straight-up manner than is their norm.
"I would say anybody that's interested in watching the Notre Dame defense, systematically, is wasting their time," said defensive coordinator Bob Diaco of the first-ever live Blue Gold Game broadcast on the Versus Network. "I'm not going to make a (defensive) call. We're going to play basically one front and one coverage, and let the players play. We're interested in watching the players; tangible evidence of those five kingdoms of what we have identified as great defense. And the call is not identified in that.
"For someone that thinks he can put (Saturday's) Notre Dame tape on and gain any sort of tactical advantage, they'd be wasting their time."
(The "kingdoms" of which Diaco speaks are personal to the staff and players, but he explained briefly that they're essentially, "…what separates good defense from great defense, or great defense from poor defense, it would be these five things that we identify. They're part of every meeting and they're part of every practice, in some fashion.)
As balanced as possibleRegardless of the somewhat controlled nature of Saturday's contest, Kelly has a plan in place to provide the quarterbacks equal opportunity to shine.
"I try to balance them off," he said of the Blue and Gold teams. "The offensive line will wear green jerseys and be one unit themselves. They'll rotate as one unit the whole time. And then Blue/Gold and that split is to try to balance the team's the best we can."
Crist, Rees, Golson and Hendrix will likely operate from different offensive packages Saturday – that could be the case in the fall if each of the quartet is called upon (as a trio of QBs were in 2010).
"We're preparing four packages for four guys right now because I have to prepare for the worst-case scenario," Kelly noted. "I'm not going to get left holding it last year where we didn't have guys really that could run our offense. We're going to have four guys that can run it and do the job if we need it.
Would he prefer to have an obvious starting quarterback, or is there value in this competition?
"If I had (Stanford QB) Andrew Luck I'd be very happy right now standing in front of you," he offered. "For me I don't know that I have a pre-conceived notion. I deal with it, and dealing with it is we have four guys that need a lot of work and need to develop. "I've been on the other side of this too where I've had a quarterback that clearly was the No. 1 and it allows you to do a lot of different things as well. So I can adapt to what the situation is."
"But I think I'm like any other football coach," he said. "I'd like to have one guy…I don't think that's going to be the case, so we have to prepare for all of those scenarios as we get through the spring."
Kelly noted he'll wear a wireless microphone for the contest – his observations broadcast on Versus during the contest.
Would he consider such a courtesy for NBC's viewers when the Irish take on a rival such as Michigan or USC?
"Absolutely not," he responded.