Not Winter, Spring or Summer...but by Fall

Spring ball wasn't about finding a definitive answer regarding his team's starting quarterback for 2012 but it was a key step in a process that has at least four months remaining before coming to fruition.

Spring practice No. 14 today brought an end to the developmental stage of Notre Dame's off-season preparations for 2012 and shortly following, head coach Brian Kelly offered a few names of note in his press conference preamble.

Among those singled out for their progress were wide receivers DaVaris Daniels and Daniel Smith; running back Cierre Wood; tight ends Tyler Eifert and Alex Welch, offensive linemen Christian Lombard and Mike Golic, nearly every viable defensive back, and at least five members of the team's deep front seven competitors.

One position remained nameless, faceless, at least until a barrage of media questions brought necessary examples to the fore: Quarterback.

Kelly has four. He had four entering the spring, he has four now; he'll likely have four throughout the summer, and all four are still competing for one spot.

"We accomplished a lot of the things I was hoping for, and that is laying down the communication system on the offensive side of the ball so that when our kids leave here this summer, they can continue to carry on the things we want to get done from an offensive perspective," said Kelly. "The next 3-4 months are very important to us and our quarterbacks are going to have to lead that, and make sure that our voluntary workouts are beneficial in helping get our offensive system down to where we want it."

More than a game manager

Kelly reiterated that taking care of the football was the unit-wide focus, but revealed a few notable observations regarding a pair of the competitors as well.

"Keeping plays alive; using his feet," said Kelly of Tommy Rees' point of emphasis this spring. "He's a better athlete than given credit for. (Last year) he just kind of rolled and threw the ball away, he never really tried to extend, so we've tried to give him opportunity to extend plays, as well as doing a better job with ball placement. (Last year) We threw the ball (that resulted in) interceptions that could have been avoided."

Kelly continued to praise Rees outside one glaring, well-documented weakness.

"He can make all the throws. He can line up on the right hash and throw it to the curl to the field (wide side). I have no problem with his arm strength. We know he has the mental ability to play the game" he noted. "Tommy's thing was turnovers. If Tommy didn't turn the football over at the rate he did last year, we'd be talking about this kid at the highest level. He did though. That's why it's open competition. He's worked hard on that."

The only other member of the practice quartet to see game action is Rees' classmate Andrew Hendrix (both enter their junior seasons, though Hendrix has three years of eligibility remaining).

Hendrix's evolution continues to include a change in his mental approach.

"I would say comfort within the offense and going out and commanding the offense," said Kelly of what he needs to see from the strong-armed athlete. "Going out there and (showing that): ‘I'm the guy, let's go!' Just that confidence, that's what I want from him. That's what I need from him."

Asked if such an approach doesn't come naturally, or easily for Hendrix, Kelly hesitated, then replied: "Um, I don't know, to be honest with you. Whether its just learning the offense and never being comfortable, or if he's never been required to do that, I'm not sure, but I know what I have to get from him.

"He can do it, he just has to do it consistently. He did some things (like that) today, then I can go back and say, ‘That's what I need right there. Give it to me all the time.'"

Asked if a line of demarcation existed between Rees/Hendrix and Everett Golson/Gunner Kiel, a pair of redshirt and true freshman, respectively, Kelly offered the current situation is dissimilar to that of 2011's off-season battle that also involved four quarterbacks (Dayne Crist, Rees, Hendrix, and Golson).

"They're all running the same offense. Everett, maybe we roll him out a couple more times, but everyone in this offense has run the segments that we want down. Maybe you accentuate a little more of their strengths by running a particular play more than another, but we're not calling, like we did last year, two different games," explained Kelly. "We're not installing two different sets of offense. This is one offense that they all have to master.

"I think the only thing (that could) separate them is not being able to do what we ask them to do in the offense, because we started over," continued Kelly of his spring approach. "We went back and re-taught all the principles. Tommy gets a little bit (of an edge) because he has a knowledge base that helps him check plays, but there's no demarcation because we started from scratch. All of them were digesting the same thing at the same time."

Decision Day ‘12

Irish fans knew early that no starting quarterback would be named in April. Kelly never felt like he needed to make a decision because he was certain the months to follow would be instrumental in the process.

"I need all of those practices (in August). We've laid down the communication system on offense, now let's go," said Kelly. "Let's see who takes that and runs with it. They are voluntary workouts this summer, so let's see the guy that takes those voluntary workouts seriously and isn't just out there whipping it around like he's in the backyard. And we've given them a plan for that. Who's that guy that wants to do that?

"And then the next step will be all of the practices (in August). That will get us to where we can make that decision."

Irish fans can only hope that this time, it's a decision that sticks. Top Stories