Miles to go before he sleeps

New offensive coordinator Chuck Martin knows football. Brian Kelly knows football and quarterbacks. Neither of them know who'll start for Notre Dame under center next fall.

Chuck Martin would like to make one thing clear: there is no timetable or deadline in the decision regarding Notre Dame's starting quarterback.

You might think it should be midway through August camp. You might think he and the team's head coach should choose the veteran, or the dual threat, or the guy with the best arm, or the only 5-star of the bunch.

You might think two should play but not three; three but certainly not four. You might think there should just be one guy with whom they live or die.

But let's be clear about your feelings: Chuck Martin doesn't care.

"I'm definitely not (concerned with public perception). Just so you can put that on the record," Martin stated in his most recent media session. "Just so the whole world knows I really don't care what they think."

Head coach Brian Kelly cares what he thinks. So too does the aforementioned quartet: the veteran (Tommy Rees), the dual threat (Everett Golson), the kid with the howitzer for a right arm (Andrew Hendrix), and the precocious 5-star talent (Gunner Kiel).

And they hear what the animated Martin thinks every day, though the team's new offensive coordinator admits he's not the first voice they hear regarding the finer points of the position.

"If we're in individual (practice segments) and there's nothing else for me, I'm a glorified GA (grad assistant) and I'm taking notes," said Martin with barely the hint of a smile. "I mean seriously, individual (work)? Kelly's ability and experience with quarterbacks (spans) 20-something years…(his protégés), they played in the league from partial scholarship/Division II guys.

"He's always assessing," continued Martin of Kelly. "He's always looking at how to make better; he's not a guy that looks back. Part of his assessment is our quarterbacks technically have to be coached better, and I'm the best guy to do it. He's not stepping on my toes. I'm all in. I'm not going to argue I have better quarterback expertise than Brian Kelly, its not even close."

What is close is their plan and approach to the journey ahead.

"I now can re-coach the same things he's coaching and use the same language. And then I'm seeing the little nuances," said Martin. "My role is a coordinator of the offense with my expertise on defense. I can tell him exactly where this joker (defender) is going to be and this is why. My thing is how to attack and big picture and how to stress people with little things. Little nuances – we're running a lot of the same routes (as last year), but we might be tweaking how we coach a receiver just based on how I know the DB is going to react.

"Our philosophies are the same," he continued. "Who we are is very similar from a competitive nature. How we want to attack a defense is what I learned from him. There are little tweaks since we've been apart, but its coming together nicely with us being on the same page. Good, bad, or indifferent, that's the starting point: being on the same page."

Sifting through the options

Spring 2011 included four combatants, though only two had a realistic chance to win the job. Spring 2010 had a lead dog in the race, though he was unable to finish, though that fact is immaterial as both teams won eight games and lost five.

Now in the third year of the Kelly era, the quarterback situation is more convoluted than ever, though the options are also far more enticing.

"I'm excited. I think they are four guys who can help us win games," said Martin of the quarter. "I don't know who's going to be ‘the guy' at the end of the day, but just from Gunner through Tommy, all four of them are doing enough good things that if we do it consistently, and we don't throw the ball to the other team, and if we manage the game, they have a chance to really help us."

A starter won't be named at the conclusion of spring ball. Sometime between the outset of August camp and a Saturday afternoon coin flip in Dublin, Notre Dame fans will know their starting quarterback for the season opener vs. Navy.

It will be the guy that makes the fewest mistakes. Or will it be the guy that makes the most plays?

"Its just 1 and 1A," said Martin of the position's criteria. "You weigh who makes the most positive things happen vs. those negative things. No one has a sliding scale, its constant evaluation. You can't play the guy that never turns it over but never makes a play, either. There's a balance, but obviously you're going to err on (the thought that) turnovers are much more disastrous than a good throw is good."

There were more turnovers (23) than touchdown tosses (21) from the team's three quarterbacks last season, so forgive the main man and his trusted aid if they're a bit skittish in the spring when one of the passers puts the ball on the turf or in the hands of a defender.

"We say it 60 times a day: ‘We don't decide who plays. You decide who plays. We don't decide who we throw the ball to. You decide,' said Martin of the open competition.

"You're looking at the quarterbacks in particular, every day we're evaluating (that) we made these positive things happen which is awesome, but now you have to weigh it against the disastrous things that happened because we lived through that. Six/seven plays can change the whole complexion of the whole year."

When and Why?

From the media's vantage point, Rees, a veteran starter of 16 games (though never in a season opener) appears to have maintained a stranglehold one first team status, though perhaps the pecking order is more for consistency of reps than actual depth chart standing.

Most observers feel a starter will be named midway through camp, thus allowing the team to prepare for a grueling opening month that includes games vs. two 11-win teams from 2011 as well as cross-Atlantic flights prior to both of the first two contests.

"Again, that's you guys. There is no target date," Martin reiterated. "That's media and fans that have this master plan of why it has to be a certain way. I've coached for 20 years…I've figured out starting guys on the bus on the way to games and had successful seasons."

Reminded an extended flight over the Atlantic precedes the season's first contest, Martin offered, "We could be on a flight to Dublin. It really doesn't matter. We're trying to prepare four guys to get ready to play. Even if it's not this year, it's at some point in their careers. There may be a guy that doesn't play this year that may become the greatest quarterback in Notre Dame history."

That's the best case scenario. The realistic scenario, and the most important for the team's fan base and coaching staff, is that the winner of QB competition 2012 is the best in the history of the three-year Kelly era. Top Stories