Spring Musings: Quarterbacks

We conclude our review of the Irish offense exiting spring ball with O'Malley's position review, thoughts, questions, answers and observations regarding the Irish quarterbacks.

For complete reviews of the rest of the Notre Dame offense exiting Spring 2012, click the links below:

Wide Receivers

Offensive Linemen

Tight Ends

Running Backs

Four Down to Three?

It's now highly unlikely – and it was never likely – that January enrollee Gunner Kiel will start the season opener vs. Navy in Dublin. Kiel's time will come, maybe late in 2012, though that would be a bad sign for the team's overall record next fall, but the forthcoming August QB competition appears to include three would-be starters, each of which were involved in competition a year ago today as well.

The next four months will determine the team's opening day starter – the three months, and the three quarterbacks below – will determine the direction of the program heading into spring 2013.

Tommy Rees: The highest completion percentage in program history. The fifth most touchdown tosses with the potential for 26 more games. Wins in 75 percent of the games he starts. Generally, a junior quarterback in Tommy Rees shoes has little competition for his starting position, but add the ugly statistic of 28 turnovers to his resume and even program outsiders understand why the competition was open this spring.

Rees entered with a leg up, and if the season started tomorrow, Rees would undoubtedly be the triggerman of Brian Kelly's offense. But his head coach has four months to weigh the pros and cons of each competitor and Rees' are more well-known than those listed below. That's chief among the reasons the staff is comfortable with Rees the offense's leader, but also why an entire collection of observers and pundits not inside the program's walls believes someone else would be better for the job.

Andrew Hendrix: The junior (redshirt-sophomore) has three seasons of eligibility remaining – so why does it feel like the 2012 season is one of now or never for the strong-armed signal-caller?

Hendrix has the arm, the legs, the toughness, and dedication to improve and work. What he needs most is 2-3 consecutive starts, and that might be difficult to attain with one competitor quicker, faster, with just as good of an arm, and more sudden, and another an established vet.

Hendrix's third August camp will have to be his best if he's to see meaningful snaps in September, or, especially, to win the job outright.

Everett Golson: The Blue Gold game's favorite son, Golson is the focal point of an off-season power struggle. Check that: a one-sided off-season power struggle.

Notre Dame fans, media, outsiders, insiders, detractors, and apologists see the plusses: the ability to make something out of nothing; darts thrown at the flick of a wrist, touch, elusiveness, speed, leadership potential. But none of those Irish-related brokers possess any of the power.

Conversely, Brian Kelly sees a lack of attention to detail, mistakes in the minutia of the position that often result in turnovers, penalties, or poor decisions, and the possibility that Golson will give away a game the Irish can't afford to relinquish considering the daunting 2012 slate and the results of 2010-11 in South Bend.

It's Kelly's call, and my guess is, if we saw every snap of every practice multiple times as did he, it wouldn't be an easy one – regardless of how it seems from afar.

Roster Rundown

Top Dog: None

Indispensable: In theory, Gunner Kiel, because the 5-star QB prospect must one day start for Notre Dame. Again, in theory, the hit of a Kiel transfer would be worse than that of any of his older competitors. As with nearly every other opinion and scenario regarding Irish quarterbacks prior to the first snap of 2012, this is more theoretical supposition than fact.

Proven BCS-Bowl Level Performers: None

Most Important that he Improve from 2011: Tommy Rees – the only absolutely guaranteed contributor for 2012. Rees could start; if he doesn't start, he'll likely be the first player off the bench in case of injury or deficit. Whether he begins the 2012 season in the shotgun or on the bench, I absolutely promise you he'll have a hand in the outcome of at least one of 13 football games.

Spring Star: Everett Golson

August/September Sleeper: Neither Rees nor Golson would be a surprise starter in Dublin. Such ascent for Kiel would rank among the all-time upsets in August camp history. That leaves Hendrix, who I believe is, at least slightly, on the outside looking in when compared to Rees and Golson exiting spring ball.

Quote to Note: "The quarterback position, as I mentioned to you before, is the art and science. In Putting both the art and the science together, he's very creative. The art part he's got down. It's the science and the consistency, all of those things to be a championship quarterback."
– Head coach Brian Kelly regarding Golson as the Irish enter involuntary summer workouts.

Senior (Eligible through 2012): None
Junior (Eligible through 2013-14): Tommy Rees (2013) and Andrew Hendrix (2014)
Sophomore (Eligible through 2015): Everett Golson
Freshman (Eligible through 2015-16): Gunner Kiel
2013 Pledge: Malik Zaire

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