After changing his mind from attending his home-state Indiana University to Louisiana State University and then to the University of Notre Dame, highly-touted Gunner Kiel entered the race to open the 2012 season as the starting quarterback in South Bend.
The Irish endured another disappointing season in 2011. Starting the season 0-2, including a heart-breaking loss to the University of Michigan, Notre Dame finished 8-5.
Last season’s carousel of quarterbacks at Notre Dame caused the offense to be inconsistent. Dayne Crist, Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix combined for 3,284 passing yards and 21 touchdowns. But they also combined to throw 17 interceptions.
If head coach Brian Kelly and his team look to improve on their 8-5 record, they must pick a quarterback to be atop the depth chart soon. Whoever that may be, it should not be Kiel. He should be on the bench learning the offense so he will be ready to play when called on in the future.
For starters, I think that it is too early to throw in the towel on Rees.
Yes, Rees played very inconsistently last year and made a number of costly mistakes. When inside the opposition’s 25-yard line, he had nine turnovers.
But Rees can bring the amount of experience he gained last year to the table. In 2011, he had better stats than both Hendrix and Crist. His 65.5 completion percentage is higher than Crist’s 62.5 percent and Hendrix’s 48.6 percent.
Rees is far from a blue chip quarterback, but he was under center for the Irish for most of last season and is very familiar with the offense. He knows that the job for the starting quarterback is a competition, and I would expect him to work hard during the offseason to improve his decision making.
I also think he has the upper hand in the race. Hendrix showed that he was not an upgrade over Rees, and Crist has since transferred to the University of Kansas. With some improvement from last year, Rees may be the best option for Kelly and the Irish.
Another quarterback on the roster with a shot to open the season as the starter is Everett Golson.
Golson is a very mobile, athletic quarterback with great footwork who could fit the spread offense better than his three teammates. He has a strong arm and is very accurate with good vision across the field.
Like Kiel, Golson is inexperienced. One of the advantages he has, though, is that he has spent a year in the system. If Kelly is going to take a chance on a quarterback who has not played a down in college, Golson may put the Irish in a better position to win because of getting to know the offense last season and his style of play.
There is no doubt that Kiel is a talented player. Rivals.com has him rated as the best pro-style quarterback in his class.
But Kelly would be taking a huge risk of throwing in a true freshman, pro-style quarterback into his spread offense, especially when he has better options available on his roster.
Kiel will start for the Irish eventually, but right away is too soon for him and the team.
Kelly is a very good football coach. He turned the programs at Grand Valley State University, Central Michigan University and the University of Cincinnati into winners. He will make the right decision at Notre Dame.