A quick update on Notre Dame’s quarterback competition – from a media and fan base’s perspective -- heading into the final week of spring ball is as follows:
Malik Zaire wants to earn the job, ideally not a “job share,” and he offered that reality to reporters in no uncertain terms.
Everett Golson presumably feels the same, and he declined to confirm, deny, or talk about it, or anything else.
As a result, Irish head coach Brian Kelly spoke for his veteran triggerman.
“He doesn't want to talk about it. I know he doesn't want to do media and stuff like that because he's focused on his academics and graduating,” said Kelly of Golson who declined his turn with the media Friday evening. “I'm okay with that. I'm fine with that. He's had his share of living in the bright lights of it.
“Now in the fall he's going to have to do what everybody else does and when it's media time he's going to have to sit in front of you guys and answer questions. But we'll give him his space.
“I expect him to be here and help us win games in the fall.”
Kelly admitted that there’s been no declarative by Golson to that end, but that he as a head coach has generally had a solid read on the ins and outs of his program and its players.
“I couldn't tell you for certain, but he's had his best spring since he's been here,” said Kelly when asked if Golson might pursue a post-graduate season elsewhere. “He's fully engaged in everything that he's doing. It's the best that I've seen him do the things that we've asked him to do since he's been here.
“It's like anything else, you know, if you're half in, you kind of see it. It would surprise me – I'm not shocked by anything that 18-to-21-year-olds (do), I’ve been in this business too long,” said Kelly as an aside. “But there's no indication that anything he's done would mean he's just doing this as a way to go somewhere else.
“If I sensed it at all, I'd have pulled the plug on it myself, because we'd be wasting our time. I think I have a pretty good sense of people and situations. I'm not going to jeopardize our program, our staff, our livelihood, what we do, if someone's not bought in and 100 percent committed.”
NO CLEAR SEPARATION, AND NO SURPRISES
Both Zaire and Golson continue to split practice reps between the first and second team (today was Zaire’s turn to start). Both continue to showcase the talents that have put them in position to start – and suffer a sampling of the deficiencies that led to another competition in the first place.
“I think there are some things we need to continue to develop in them,” said Kelly. “Like today with Malik, sometimes he'll check into things where we're not quite certain what he was thinking.
“Everett, there's no doubt about where his mind is relative to what he's seeing and what he's thinking. 'Why did you go to that, Everett?' (and the answer) makes total sense.
“As it relates to Malik, we're still in that process where it's (wondering) 'What are you thinking?' We had a quick tempo play on and he got out of the quick tempo play, changed the entire formation, and we were wondering, 'What's going on here?'
“As it relates to their skills, I think we have a pretty good understanding of their skills. Now it's just making sure they're well-rounded in everything. I thought Everett ran the ball with his shoulder pads down today. That's what we've been asking him to do.
“What we didn't like today is we had two turnovers (one interception by both quarterbacks). Neither one of them can turn the football over, and we had two turnovers in scoring position.”
The winner of the oft-discussed competition becomes a de facto leader of the offense and, with presumed success thereafter, the football team.
Asked how his polar opposite personalities under center may mesh with the rest of his squad, Kelly deferred to the bottom-line reality of major college football.
That is, winning cures and masks all potential ills.
“They know they’re two different kids, but (the other players) are so focused on their assignments and taking care of business that they're just looking for somebody that is committed and somebody that is going to help them be successful.
“That's all they want from their quarterback,” Kelly continued. “The quarterback here at Notre Dame has to be 100 percent committed to winning, and both of those kids are. As long as they are, (the players) are going to embrace whoever is out there on the football field.
“If (the quarterback) is not committed, if he’s not bought in, and not willing to do the things necessary to be successful, it doesn't matter what his skill level is, they'll respond differently to the quarterback.
The Irish remain not only relatively injury-free through 12 of 15 spring practice sessions, but on the mend. Returning captain Sheldon Day (knee) was fully engaged in practice today, including live scrimmage action, as was 5th-year senior Jarrett Grace (leg).
The latter is going to rejoin the fray next week.
“Joe Schmidt is going to be back on Monday during 7-on-7s,” said Kelly. “He's going to be in non-contact situations. He's cleared to be in all movement drills, 7-on-7, non-contact drills. He's moving pretty good. He'll get his opportunity Monday and Wednesday.”
Schmidt was officially cleared today. As he has in most media practice viewings, Schmidt stretched with the squad, then sprinted off the field toward the training room for rehab.
Also back in the mix after having his 2014 season truncated by injury is junior safety Nicky Baratti. Baratti has worked his way through four shoulder injuries (two on each shoulder) and three surgeries (two on his left) since the BCS Championship Game in January 2013.
“Doing really good. He's gone through some tackling drills, too,” said Kelly. “Not player-to-player, but some of those (tackling dummies). He's been through those. He's doing pretty good.
“Get him through spring and let's go play in the fall.”