Spring Wrap: Quarterbacks

Our fourth position review of spring ball looks at Notre Dame's quarterback four-some. In this edition of our "Incomplete" series, O'Malley offers who stood out, who stepped up, and what questions remain?

Quarterbacks -- Pecking Order Established

Of the group, only Tommy Rees exhausts his eligibility after 2013. With the spring transfer of redshirt-freshman Gunner Kiel, and a less-than-inspiring collection of 2014 quarterback prospects, Irisheyes.com expects senior-to-be Andrew Hendrix to be asked back for a fifth season.

Spring Pecking Order: Everett Golson, Rees, Hendrix, and early enrollee Malik Zaire.

Spring Star Everett Golson's weak performance in the Blue Gold Game shouldn't weigh heavily on Irish fans, the dual-threat triggerman had an outstanding spring. The most important player this spring was likely Zaire, who though not yet a polished passer, showed maturity beyond his years in the classroom.

"From the mental end of things, he's in the top group of guys that I've coached that really understands the nuances of the position and can understand coverages and rotations and pressures and movement keys," said head coach Brian Kelly.

"He's really at a high level there. His is simply we've got to tighten him up a little bit, quicker release, we've got to work on his footwork -- the things we had to work on with Everett. But he's really got a good mind for the game."

Aid on the Way: None. Notre Dame must sign either a quarterback or a run-first quarterback that can move to another position in this cycle. Failing that, a 5th-year transfer in from another program for 2014 would be mandatory.

Spring Questions that Remain

Can Hendrix carve out a role as a 6'2" fast, 235-pound runner? Assuming Zaire is withheld from action, how much can he be kept with the varsity to avoid stunting his growth (running the "other team's" plays)? A fate that slowed Golson and both slowed and frustrated Kiel…Can Rees win in a full-game situation vs. a Top 25 level team if called upon?

Is Golson as advanced since last season as his head coach has indicated? Can Golson become a 65 percent passer in his second season? Coupled with his quick feet, the number would make the Irish defense extremely difficult to defend. If calamity strikes (both Golson and Rees go down) does Zaire get the multi-game call or does Hendrix? Will Hendrix consider a 5th-year option to ameliorate the dearth of depth in 2014? (Without him, only Golson, Zaire, and a true freshman would be in the fold.)

Final Thoughts

Neither Rees nor Hendrix can bring this offense to a BCS bowl berth if Golson were to miss extended time -- that's why losing Kiel to transfer "one year early" could be a blow…In good health, Golson will be the hands down MVP of the 2013 Irish offense…Rees was magic in relief last fall -- he might need to throw an occasional pass inside the hash marks if called upon in a full-game situation this season…Considering Notre Dame's red zone woes under Kelly (ranked 49, 88, and 70 out of 120 teams from 2010-2012) why isn't Hendrix involved in a package once the team reaches the 10-yard line? Is there any reason to play Zaire other than injury to both Golson and Rees? Its imperative the early enrollee put two seasons of eligibility between him and Golson…

Is Notre Dame the only college program with a backup quarterback that's contributed heavily to 15 wins entering his senior season?

Next in the series: The team's offensive line…

Intro to Series

A key defensive line prospect. The nation's best high school linebacker. Two punters (phew!). The offense's quickest player. Two of the defense's three best cornerbacks. One of its three best inside linebackers. Two of its five best safety prospects. Two running backs capable of winning weekly roles. Two freshmen pass targets (one already on campus) capable of filling in at the back end of the rotation. Countless special teams contributors.

The list of potential -- and in many cases, certain -- 2013 commodities not involved in Saturday's quirky Blue Gold Game ranks as one of the spring game's most relevant stories, and leads to my final grade on head coach Brian Kelly's Irish as they exit a 15-session, five-week spring:


Just as it did in 2012 -- a national runner-up season and the best in 19 years for the program -- Notre Dame's 2013 football team will be made whole by its first-time scrimmage contributors.

That list last fall included major contributions from the likes of Tony Springmann, Danny Spond, Keivarae Russell, Matthias Farley, Sheldon Day, DaVaris Daniels, Daniel Smith, Chris Brown, Nicky Baratti, Elijah Shumate, and of course, Everett Golson.

"We're also going to bring in a number of freshmen that I'm certain are going to be involved in special teams, especially some of those bigger-bodied guys," said Kelly during his spring wrap-up press conference. "You've got (Michael) Deeb and (Doug) Randolph and Jaylon Smith and Max Redfield just to name a few. We've got some guys coming in, some DBs, in (Devin) Butler and (Rashad) Kinlaw. There is going to be an influx of talented guys that can help us in that area."

And from scrimmage as well, not only the freshmen, but those returning from injury, little-used players from 2012, and a host of others. The only guarantee for 2013 is that September's lot of key contributors will differ -- perhaps greatly -- from November's.

Over the next three days at Irisheyes.com we'll conclude our review of spring ball 2013 with a position-by-position look at where each unit stands, and from who it will receive aid in August camp and throughout 2013.

For our review of the running backs, Click here. For the wide receivers, Click here. Our recap of the tight ends can be found here.

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