Notre Dame Football: Grading the Quarterbacks After the Blue-Gold Game
Although the competition for the starting quarterback position is far from over in South Bend, Saturday's Blue-Gold Game gave fans a brief glimpse into the contestants' abilities and flaws.
At times, the game was startlingly reminiscent of last season's misfortunes, characterized by sloppy ball control and turnovers.
Nevertheless, certain individuals at the quarterback position gave fans something to look forward to in the months ahead leading up to the opening kickoff against Navy in Dublin, Ireland.
Here's a look at which quarterbacks made the grade, and who didn't, after Saturday's performance.
Similar to last season's tribulations, Rees doesn't seem to have made significant strides during spring practice compared to his level of play in 2011.
Once again, the young quarterback was plagued by inconsistencies. Rees showed signs of accuracy in his throws, but not enough to reassure the Irish faithful that he is the man for the job. His completion percentage stood at a meager 50 percent by the end of the day, and his one interception was the result of a failed attempt to accurately read the defensive coverage.
In addition to a lackluster performance through the air, Rees lacks the mobility necessary to be successful in coach Brian Kelly's offense. Experience under center only goes so far, and it is apparent that Rees' skills are lagging behind where they should be at this juncture.
With the exception of his one touchdown toss to tight end Tyler Eifert in the first quarter, Hendrix's play wasn't significantly superior compared to Rees. Hendrix looked more comfortable tucking the ball and trying to make a run for it, but other than his ground game, both he and Rees struggle with consistency in the pocket.
While Hendrix certainly has velocity behind his throws, checking down to an alternate receiver and accurately reading the defensive coverage are two major areas where both Hendrix and Rees are in need of drastic improvement.
Hendrix is capable of showcasing his abilities at the elite level, but he is going to need to work on several areas during the next few months if he wishes to start for the Irish on September 1.
Between the three quarterbacks who saw playing time during the first half of the Blue-Gold Game, redshirt freshman Everett Golson was the only one who remained consistent throughout the game, connecting on 11 of his 15 throws for two touchdowns.
Golson also led the quarterbacks in the ground game, carrying the ball six times for 25 yards, despite two fumbles.
In addition to his two touchdown throws, the play that made him stand out the most compared to the other quarterbacks competing for the starting role was a pass play where Golson was forced to check down to fellow receiver Robby Toma. Without much hesitation, Golson correctly read the coverage, and found Toma on the out route near the sideline.
Whether it was on the ground or through the air, Golson made a strong case for himself on Saturday afternoon.
Given the inherent difficulty for a freshman quarterback to adapt to Kelly's offense in a relatively short period of time, and then be asked to perform in front of thousands of fans just a few weeks after the beginning of spring practice, Gunner Kiel showed he has legitimate potential to be a starter in a couple years in an Irish uniform.
Keil completed 5-of-10 passes for 57 yards and threw one interception.
The true freshman, while having strong command of his throws, is still becoming accustomed to the speed of the game at the collegiate level. After watching Rees, Hendrix and Golson perform in the first half, it is difficult to say whether Kelly will utilize Kiel during the 2012 season.
Nonetheless, Kiel should fit in nicely with Kelly's offense as time progresses.
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Regardless of the amount of speculation revolving around the status of the quarterback competition, the only man who truly knows where things stand on a daily basis is Kelly himself. In an effort to keep the opposition guessing, and to ensure the right man is selected for the job, Kelly will not hesitate to drag this positional contest out as long as necessary.
From an outside perspective, if the Blue-Gold Game was any indication of how spring practice as a whole shaped out, Golson should be the clear favorite. No other quarterback on Saturday possessed the consistency, mobility and arm strength to run Kelly's offense with efficiency.
Of course, the competition is subject to change, and it is difficult to judge each quarterback based upon one scrimmage. The coaches will keep a careful eye on player development as the opening game approaches, as success often hinges on the ability of the quarterback, especially in this system of offense.