Thursday Notes

The first of two Thursday notebooks looks at the Blue Gold Game format, the weekend's relevance, and Brian Kelly's requisite review of the team's quarterback quartet.

Yesterday's 13th practice of the spring session proved to be the team's most taxing. For one key competitor, it also apparently gave head coach Brian Kelly one more positive to ponder heading into the three-month off-season.

"They all have different skill sets," Kelly said when asked about his quarterbacks near the spring's conclusion. "Dayne (Crist), when he goes in there, really knows the offense as well as anybody. Tommy (Rees) is efficient. I think we all know about Tommy: once you start to think about him getting beat out, he has a day like today and (it) says: ‘Well, he wins. He's 4-0 as a starter.'"

Each of the team's four quarterbacks received first-team reps Wednesday, a two-hour practice that showed the man in charge his team has plenty of room to grow before they begin to consider ultimate goals.

"It was our longest of the spring," Kelly said of the 24-segment session. "We needed to get a lot of work in and we got some situational scrimmaging that we won't necessarily have in the spring game.

"We have a long way to go," he continued. "A two-hour practice for our guys is not something we do a lot (this year). We lost some of our focus and energy, so it was a good teaching moment for us because if we want to be a championship football team we have to be able to go for 24 periods, locked in and focused, and we kind of waned on the back end of our practice structure today."

As for the first team reps offered to young quarterback competitors Everett Golson and Andrew Hendrix?

"The young guys are exciting to watch. Golson got some first team reps today; made some plays. I'm not sure he knows what he's doing all the time but I'm not going to over-coach him, either, because he's got the natural gift of making plays.

"And Hendrix continues to move forward."

Hendrix has the best arm; Golson has the best feet (and possibly the second "best" arm); Crist is the respected leader, possessing both a quality arm and feet coupled with the keenest knowledge – and ability – to run the bulk of the voluminous offense; and Rees was one of five key figures that saved his head coach's first season at the helm (not to mention the most accurate passer on the offense's preferred fades, corners, and seam routes).

And to date, there's still no certain pecking order.

"We won't say you're 1-2-3-4 after (spring)," Kelly offered of his post Blue Gold Game quarterback evaluation. "We'll tell them their expectations for (summer) 7-on-7 and we'll have a clear sheet of what they need to work on. But there's no way we'd leave the spring game, unless something dramatic happens, that we'd find a starter.

Is he behind schedule in that regard?

"No. I think we just need as much practice time as possible. I'm pleased with the progress they've all made. We want to win a championship, so this is about getting the quarterbacks into position where they can win a championship."

"I called this meeting today to discuss..."

Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco noted the Irish defense will show nothing schematic on Saturday. The head coach has admitted his veteran quarterbacks will barely play (and don red jerseys signifying no contact) and that the bulk of first-string competitors would join him on the sidelines after initial cameos.

Kelly offered an idea of what to expect from the game's format as well.

"We'll have the quarterbacks on a headset, they'll talk a little bit, but the first half is probably the most game-like, and in the second half the clock will run. The piece (game story) you're looking for is the two quarterbacks battling. They'll get a lot of work."

While Golson and Hendrix will run the show behind a rotating offensive line (the OL is one unit, playing for both young competitors), they'll do so in a decidedly unfamiliar fashion.

"I'm going to slow it down a little bit. We will huddle..." Kelly said before sardonically offering, "that's when 11 guys get together on the offensive side of the ball…and they relive the last play." (Kelly's admiration for a fast-paced attack in which plays are called at the line of scrimmage is well-documented.)

In addition to television cameras, alumni returning to campus for a glimpse at the 2011 squad, and natural expectations for an exciting, fan-friendly contest, Kelly will also perform his requisite balancing act of the game's pomp and frill with the weekend's ancillary focus – recruiting.

"It's what we do 365 days a year," Kelly said. "It's called balance, with developing and preparing your football team and at the same time always looking toward the future. Don't mortgage your future; don't live in the past, stay in the present. But it's the reality of BCS football, you have to balance those things."

Kelly knows the Blue Gold Game experience offers more than do most off-season weekend visits for future Irish.

"There's a lot more going on campus. The atmosphere will be much different so it's definitely a boost when you get those kids on campus," he noted. "I think it's a spring event now on the calendar. As it relates to the 15 practices for me, it's not that big. But as it relates to coming back on campus as an alum and getting a feel for (things) and getting back into that Stadium, it's an event and I think it should be."

Note: Our afternoon notebook will focus on personnel points entering and key to Saturday's Blue Gold Game. Top Stories