Notre Dame Football: What Each Prospective QB Brings to the Table
No, I don't know who's going to be Notre Dame's starting quarterback on Sept. 1 against Navy in Dublin (although it became slightly clearer on Tuesday). What I do know is that each of the four quarterbacks competing for playing time are very different, each bringing his own unique skill set to the position.
The start of fall camp on Saturday will allow the quarterback battle to continue where it left off after April's Blue-Gold Game when sophomore Everett Golson was the most impressive, displaying the big-play ability that has made him a fan favorite.
What makes the decision so difficult for head coach Brian Kelly is that what one quarterback excels at, others struggle with, and vice versa. Let's look at what Fighting Irish quarterbacks offer.
Golson has struggled to fully grasp Kelly's complex offense in his 18 months in South Bend. When he understands the play calls and makes the correct read, he becomes by far the most dynamic quarterback on the roster. When he doesn't, he either leaves the coaching staff holding its collective breath or is forced to call a timeout.
With a strong arm and great speed, Golson can keep defenses honest and make both deep throws and out routes with which Tommy Rees struggled. When a play breaks down due to a missed block or an incorrect route, Golson is the guy who can best make something out of nothing.
For Golson, it's simply a matter of time before everything clicks and he flashes the ability that made him a South Carolina high school legend.
Andrew Hendrix has a lot of Tim Tebow in him. In some ways, that's a good thing; in others, that's a bad thing. No Irish quarterback is more capable of or more willing to take a big hit than Hendrix, who rarely shies away from contact.
In limited action last season, he was also able to display his Brett Favre-like cannon for an arm, rarely hesitating to take a chance on fitting the ball in a tight space.
What Hendrix has in arm strength, he seems to lack in composure. He appeared impatient way too often last season, taking his first read rather than going through the full progression of receivers. He completed less than 50 percent of his 37 passes. Hendrix can do a lot, but he hasn't become a major threat in any one area. Until he does, he'll continue to struggle with consistency.
The phrase "swimming" is often used to describe a young quarterback learning a new offense. That was never more appropriate than in the second half of the Blue-Gold Game in which Kiel took every snap.
While his command of the offense continues to develop, he did show a strong arm, adequate mobility and plenty of toughness.
Barring significant injuries, Kiel won't see the field in 2012, but the Irish coaching staff feels like they have someone who can do great things down the road. As the nephew of former Notre Dame quarterback Blair Kiel, the limelight doesn't appear to have affected him, despite a whirlwind recruitment.
Yes, he's still here. And yes, he's still a viable candidate to start 11 of Notre Dame's 12 games this fall. What Rees has that his competitors lack is a strong understanding of the offensive system. His sense to check into running plays last year was a key part of the Irish rushing attack finishing as one of the program's best in recent years.
He can't make every throw, nor can he escape heavy pressure, but he has won 12 of his 16 starts, including games in the L.A. Coliseum and Yankee Stadium in addition to a 5-1 record at Notre Dame Stadium.
While Rees won't win many popularity contests with Irish fans, he's earned the respect of his teammates and will make Hendrix and Golson come and get him for the permanent starting job.