At some point, junior quarterback Tommy Rees will have to graduate from inconsistent to cagey. Sometime soon, Rees’ weekly Saturday miscues must subside, giving way to coolly efficient performance befitting a veteran starter.
At some point, junior quarterback Andrew Hendrix will have to operate like a three-year veteran of a college program. Someday soon, Hendrix’s ability to throw the ball through a wall shouldn’t be tested so literally. After all, those other-colored jerseys aren’t transparent.
At some point, redshirt-freshman quarterback Everett Golson will have to learn to align his receivers, ‘backs, and motion men before the snap as easily as he fires a football downfield. Sometime soon, Golson will graduate from sandlot superstar to college quarterback. If not, Brian Kelly won’t be the only member of Irish nation to whom Golson authors weekly palpitations between the whistles.
As for Gunner Kiel? The early enrollee’s high school prom is later next month. He gets a pass, that is unless all of the above fails to come to fruition, then the current coaching staff will have to decide if the future is now, a move that would likely benefit the team greatly in 2014-15…but one that might be too painful and precarious in the interim.
Yes, at some point in the not-so-distant future, Kelly and offensive coordinator Chuck Martin will name a starting quarterback for the team’s opener in Dublin vs. Navy. That nod should go to the team’s best overall. The best not only able to face a daunting 12-game set in 2012, but the quarterback most able to lead the Irish through the 2013 season as well.
In short: we can’t be here (again) in a year.
Avoiding Groundhog Day 2013...and Beyond
The 2011 spring session ended as it began: Dayne Crist and Tommy Rees were QB 1 and 1A – their fate to be determined in August. Two under and/or unseasoned backups, both promising dual-threats, waited in the wings.
The plan played out poorly: choice A (Crist) lasted 30 game minutes, choice B (Rees) finished worse three months later than he started, choice C (Hendrix) showed his warts in painful relief, choice D (Golson) wisely never saw the field.
Fast forward to spring session 2012, one that began with an open competition, ended with an open competition, and with the depth chart fate of each to be determined yet again in August.
Will one of the four start, finish, and prosper between Labor Day and the New Year? If not one, can two? Will Notre Dame, for the first time since 2005, record more wins vs. Top 25 foes than it features starting quarterbacks in a single season?
The program's lines of scrimmage have been rebuilt under the Kelly regime; that was Step 1. I’m not sure what Step 3 is, because it’s irrelevant if Step 2 – finding and developing a consistent BCS level quarterback that protects the football and makes plays – isn’t realized in advance.
“We're hoping that this summer is an opportunity for them to move past some of the areas of concern, and now come into camp where we really can start to narrow down who those guys are going to be competing for the starting position,” said Kelly following today’s Blue Gold game. “I don't think he can share reps right up until the first game. There will be a time and a place for that. But it's still a ways away.”
Tommy Rees can lead a football team, play through adversity, direct a no-huddle offense with aplomb, and get the ball where it needs to go.
(Hendrix got a taste of the action last fall.)
Andrew Hendrix can spin the pigskin with the best of them, take off running past or through defenders, and is as dedicated to his craft as is his more experienced, decorated classmate.
Everett Golson can make defenders look silly in space, fire the ball on a line or on a gorgeous rainbow arc down field, and has the obvious moxie to make things happen at this level. Gunner Kiel might be all of the above; perhaps a bit less or more.
None of the above is perfect. Each has readily discernible warts, especially in the eyes of their Quarterback Whisperer Head Coach. Each will make mistakes next September, November, and beyond. All are eligible to play collegiate football for anywhere from two to the next five years.
“You saw what I saw. There is nothing different,” said Kelly of his team’s performance in general. “Those are the kids we've got, can't trade them, but we've got to get them better.”
At some point, its time to stop splitting hairs with the offense’s triggerman and live with one choice. For now and for the future.