With Tommy Rees, Andrew Hendrix and Luke Massa joining Nate Montana and Dayne Crist, why does Brian Kelly feel the need to sign a player like Starling or any other top signal caller in the Class of 2011?
Let's take a closer look at the many reasons why Kelly needs to work hard to land another quarterback.
Injury: In the past three seasons, Brian Kelly has had to start a backup quarterback and win. Ben Mauk goes down, Dustin Grutza comes in. Dustin Grutza goes down, Tony Pike comes in, Pike goes down Chazz Anderson comes in. Tony Pike goes down again, Zach Collaros comes in. Each year Kelly has had to start backups and win games with other players than those who were at the top of the depth chart.
Quarterbacks get hit and at times will be injured. If there is not a fully capable player able to take the team on his shoulders and win in Kelly's system, Kelly knows wins will become losses very fast.
Ability To Run Kelly's Offense: Do the players currently on the roster or incoming capable of running the offense and put wins on the board? Some yes, some no. Let's look at each of the quarterbacks at this time.
Nate Montana: The last name says it all for anyone who has followed football. Yes, the spring saw the younger Montana enjoy some nice plays and good stats, but not the skills Brian Kelly requires out of his quarterbacks to win at Notre Dame. Because of numbers, Montana got some work in the spring and turned a few heads during the spring game. But when the season rolls around Montana could be down the depth chart only hoping it was still spring.
Tommy Rees: As a Charlie Weis recruit, Tommy Rees made the choice to give his verbal commitment and enroll early at Notre Dame. Brian Kelly knew coming in there would be some players he'd need to keep in the class and Rees was one of them. But keep in mind, Kelly didn't evaluate Rees as a quarterback for his offense but understood the commitment he made was to the program. While not knowing what Dayne Crist would be able to do in the spring, Rees didn't have a bad spring for a first time guy, but also must improve his game to reach the level Kelly and Charley Molnar expect from a player who will take the number one spot on the roster.
Luke Massa: Brian Kelly liked what he saw in Luke Massa in high school. While Massa fought injury during his high school career, he also showed some of the skills Kelly likes from his quarterbacks. Able to extend the pocket, Massa has some of the qualities Tony Pike showed to Kelly in Cincinnati. But Massa has a lot to improve upon and while not a bad athlete, he may not be able to do all the things Kelly will ask in the years to come.
Andrew Hendrix: Can Hendrix be the backup this fall? Yes, he's got a lot of talent but during his high school career was also very inconsistent. Hendrix has a solid frame and runs faster than many know. He's got a thick frame and will be able to take the hits needed in Kelly's system. Coming in this month, Hendrix will get some understanding of the offense, but he'll have to be a fast learner to keep Rees or Montana in back of him. The future is bright for Hendrix but he knows the future will see Kelly find one or two more quarterbacks capable of pushing him to the back of the pack.
Dayne Crist: As everyone knows, Crist is coming off the knee injury but was pushed by Kelly during the spring to take snaps. This was major for the Irish as Crist will be expected to carry a big load on his shoulders this fall. Can Crist be a winning quarterback in Brian Kelly's system? Yes, but Kelly knows he's only going to be around for a short time and the future requires more quarterbacks be brought into the fold in the Class of 2011 and also 2012.
Crist has the arm strength, but needs to show he's capable of moving the pocket and getting the ball released when it needs to be. The summer will be a short one for Crist as he'll need to keep working on the knee while also getting all the things embedded into his mind without second guessing himself by the time camp opens.
The Future: Yes, Kelly and staff are working hard to find a top quarterback in the Class of 2011. Bubba Starling is the guy now at the front of the class as Kiehl Frazier and Braxton Miller have issued their verbal pledges. But Starling is not the only quarterback being worked on just in case he makes the move and pledges to Nebraska.
Starling's visit to Notre Dame was sure to see Brian Kelly working hard on getting the four star quarterback into the fold so they can move onto picking the quarterback that will come in the next class.
Notre Dame fans are asking the same question Cincinnati fans asked just a few seasons ago. Kelly showed there he knew what he was doing with the position. Over the course of his three seasons at the helm of the Bearcats, Kelly had Mauk, Grutza, Anderson, Pike and Collaros each start and win games. Does he have that type of depth now at Notre Dame? Not yet.
While Starling is the target for the 2011 class, Kelly also has his eyes on 2012 and will see at least three of the top quarterbacks on his board come to camp. Maty Mauk, Gray Crow and Gunner Kiel will each show their abilities on campus in the next couple of weeks.
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