Date: September 11, 2010.
Opponent: Michigan, Notre Dame Stadium
Situation: Notre Dame marched 71 yards in 13 plays, with first-string quarterback Dayne Crist capping the drive on an one-yard touchdown plunge. A Michigan punt gave the Irish the football at their own 24-yard line, leading 7-0 with 8:56 to play in the first quarter.
Events that followed: True freshman Tommy Rees trotted out from the sidelines for an injured Crist (blurred vision/concussion) and threw an interception on his second career snap – an ill-advised flea-flicker call and check down throw by the unprepared backup gave the ball to Michigan deep in Notre Dame territory. Two more interceptions by the Irish (from the arm of former walk-on Nate Montana, who replaced Rees), and the brilliance of Denard Robinson provided the Wolverines a 21-7 halftime lead and eventual 28-24 victory.
The Point of this Painful Reflection: The Irish had no one to compete under center when their starting quarterback went down. Equally vexing was that one calendar year prior, the Notre Dame program appeared well-stocked, with top junior (Jimmy Clausen), sophomore (Dayne Crist), and senior (Evan Sharpley) available for battle.
Fast forward to August 2013 when four, possibly five experienced and/or highly touted signal callers will battle for QB roles under fourth-year head coach Brian Kelly.
Incoming 2013 freshman and March 25 commit Malik Zaire is the latest edition an already promising quartet.
"I know this is going to be a challenge as I'll be going into college and competing against three or four guys," Zaire told Irisheyes.com recruiting analyst Dave Berk. "However, at the same time I didn't look at anything I feel I couldn't beat it. I know it's early but it didn't look like anything that was too special or something I would have to wait a year for.
"I also believe Coach Kelly believes in me a lot and I'll be given a chance to come in and show them what I have."
Zaire's skill set includes one of the most important aspects of a quarterback in Kelly's system: the ability to extend plays.
And in the case of this soon-to-be high school senior, true dual-threat skills, with the additional understanding of shotgun spread principles.
"They run a lot of similar things on offense as we run and the terminology is about the same," Zaire said. "I also loved the drills Coach Kelly has the quarterbacks doing and how intense he is as I know he'll really get after you. I think that is something that will push me to get better and be motivated to compete even harder."
Constant competition through the ranks, with the best man ascending on the depth chart: it's the goal of any championship program, and it appears Notre Dame is catching up after years of ill-prepared (by Kelly's own admission, 2010), and ill-equipped (most seasons since 1997) backup quarterback options.
2013 QuarterbacksAll players are listed in terms of their class for 2013, not the upcoming season:
- Senior Tommy Rees: Helped saved the 2010 season and has already started 16 games entering his true junior year. Rees has, in my estimation (and at present), about a 40 percent chance to start No. 17 in Dublin next September. Eligible through the 2013 season.
- Senior Andrew Hendrix: Has yet to start but played a full second half in a comeback bid at powerful Stanford last season and sparingly vs. Air Force, USC, and Florida State – the latter games with the outcome still in doubt. Hendrix is eligible through the 2014 season after sitting out 2010 as a true freshman.
- Junior Everett Golson: The 2011 Scout Team Player of the Year did not see the field as a true freshman last fall and is thus eligible through 2015. Has emerged as the "fan's choice" entering spring ball 2012.
- Sophomore Gunner Kiel: Already on campus and the team's top recruit – and nation's best high school quarterback – from the 2012 recruiting class. Eligible through 2015 or 2016 (should he red-shirt in 2012). Kiel is capable of winning a backup, potentially the starting role, between now and the end of the 2012 season.
- Freshman Malik Zaire: A redshirt-season in 2013 would make Zaire eligible through 2017. If he earns backup duty as a true freshman in '13, Zaire would be then eligible through 2016.
Most subscribers know my take (and Notre Dame's history) on four-man quarterback competitions – someone above won't be around to battle Zaire in the future.
Yet another reason to bring in a promising prospect looking to compete and bring Notre Dame back to the top of the college football world.