Brian Kelly's Notre Dame Fighting Irish are stocked with talent up and down the depth chart, but this offseason, all eyes will be on the battle for the starting slot at quarterback.
Tommy Rees, Everett Golson, Andrew Hendrix and Gunner Kiel will all have an opportunity to compete for the job, and at this point, it's anybody's guess which passer will emerge to take the first snap for the Irish in Dublin on September 1.
Before the competition ramps up in earnest, let's get a lay of the land, boiling an assessment of each candidate down to one single word.
In the minds of most Irish fans, his standing as Notre Dame's most recent starting quarterback is about all Tommy Rees has going for him.
Rees' hold on the starting gig last season left the Irish faithful perplexed, wondering what could possibly motivate Brian Kelly's continued commitment to a passer so predisposed to gifting possession to his opponents.
I've long since given up trying to climb inside Kelly's head, but for whatever reason, he has shown a nearly unshakeable confidence in Rees. The prevailing thought is that Rees has the best grasp on the offense of any Notre Dame quarterback, but after his two end zone interceptions against Florida State, I wonder how tight that grasp really is.
Still, it's Rees' chair until someone kicks him out of it.
His compatriots will have another offseason to study up for Kelly's preseason testing, and it's clear that his position at the top of the class is far from unassailable.
Everett Golson has never taken a meaningful snap in a college football game, but somehow, a few grainy high school game tapes and nine completions against backup defenders in a rain-soaked spring game are enough to cement him as starter-in-waiting in the minds of many Notre Dame fans.
I've seen the tapes, and the potential is there—there's no question about that. Golson is undeniably the most athletically gifted of all the Irish quarterbacks, but that shiftiness and speed comes with a price. The redshirt freshman checks in at just six feet tall and 185 pounds, by far the smallest passer on Notre Dame's roster.
Still, it's possible for his athleticism to render his size mostly irrelevant. The best example of that in action is Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson. If everything breaks right for Golson, that's his ceiling. He could develop into Denard Robinson with a better arm.
Robinson uses his incredible agility to avoid contact, slipping between charging defenders and rarely taking a hit squarely on the chin. Still, Michigan fans hold their collective breath whenever his back hits the turf.
Elusive as he is, Robinson will always feel like a China doll among bigger tacklers, and he's 10 pounds heavier than Everett Golson.
In limited duty last season, Andrew Hendrix displayed a Swiss Army set of abilities.
As a runner, he used his 220-pound frame to bull his way to short yardage conversions, but also flashed enough speed to gallop 78 yards past the entire Air Force defense.
As a passer, his rallying effort against Stanford showed off an impressive combination of power and precision, even under pressure from a defense that set up camp in the Irish backfield.
"Toolsy" is generally applied to burgeoning baseball players, but in this case, it applies perfectly to football.
There's nothing on a football field that Andrew Hendrix can't do. He has the capability to execute every bit of Brian Kelly's spread offense, assuming that he eventually develops a satisfactory comprehension of said offense.
For some reason or another, Hendrix's potential hasn't drummed up the groundswell of support that's been building behind Everett Golson, but from my perspective, he has the highest ceiling of any quarterback on Notre Dame's roster.
Though the three other Irish quarterbacks are certainly talented, none entered the program buoyed by anywhere near the hype that accompanies Gunner Kiel to South Bend.
Kiel's flip-flopping tendencies generated much of the news surrounding his recruiting process, but that shouldn't outweigh the fact that he is by far the highest regarded quarterback prospect that Brian Kelly has ever brought in. He has the size, arm strength and athletic ability to develop into a great one, but after spending only a couple of weeks on campus, it's hard to say how long that'll take.
Kiel asks us not to read anything into the fact that he chose to wear No. 1, but as much as he'd like to deny it, it's a pretty clear statement of his confidence. He knows he's talented enough to win the job, and he'll have every opportunity to do so.