Notre Dame Football: Brian Kelly's 5 Biggest Concerns Post-Spring Practice
As the dust settled on a surprisingly lackluster Blue Gold Game, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly was saddled with more questions than resolved issues.
The scrimmage, which pitted the offense against defense rather than two full squads, only had one touchdown and featured third-stringers and walk-ons for the duration of the second half, leaving fans yawning and heading to more entertaining locales in the immediate area.
Kelly likely had too many pressing thoughts circulating in his mind to notice the steady stream of fans to the exits, as the abnormally wintry conditions pelting South Bend, Ind. didn't provide any incentive to remain for the full 60 minutes of the contest, either.
The Irish quarterbacks didn't offer any viewing pleasure, but one name in the group is worth discussing.
Will Malik Zaire be the Irish's Backup Quarterback?
Since arriving to campus in January, Zaire's name has been the all the rage on message boards and fan sites across the web, and for good reason.
The Kettering, Ohio, native is a perfect fit in Kelly's spread offense, and his highlight tapes make it difficult for even the most pessimistic of fans to ignore what he brings to the table.
During Saturday's non-traditional scrimmage, Zaire completed 5-of-8 passing attempts for 62 yards, including a beautiful 35-yard touchdown strike to slot receiver C.J. Prosise. Now, one throw won't determine Zaire's role during the 2013 season, but moments like it throw his name into contention for the backup quarterback job.
Everett Golson will be the Irish's starter in 2013, but the pecking order beneath him will be a battle between the talented but raw Zaire and Tommy Rees, who started 11 of 12 games in 2011.
Will the Offensive Line Gel Prior to the Season Opener?
The Irish's 2013 offensive will be, perhaps, the least experienced of Kelly's tenure at Notre Dame.
Former starting center Braxston Cave, as well as former starting right guard, Mike Golic Jr., must be replaced, which is a process that requires time and flexibility to solve.
Connor Hanratty and Mark Harrell are currently battling for the starting right guard position, while Nick Martin and Matt Hegarty are duking it out for Cave's former center position.
The ensuing results will be significant determinants in the shaping of the offense come fall.
How Will Reps Be Distributed at Running Back?
The number of carries among the Irish running backs didn't vary tremendously on Saturday, leading to the prevailing thought that the position will employ a committee approach this season.
George Atkinson was the leading rusher with 49 yards on 10 carries, while William Mahone tallied a measly 11 yards on eight carries. Cam McDaniel was also thrown in the mix, recording eight yards on six carries.
As I've written before, this position will take on an entirely different view once 2012 signees Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston enter the fold, making for a potentially combustible few weeks of fall camp.
Where Does Lo Wood Fit In at Cornerback?
Prior to fall camp 2012, Wood was penciled in as a projected starer at cornerback alongside Bennett Jackson until a torn Achilles heel sidelined him for the entire campaign.
Then freshman KeiVarae Russell replaced Wood, and doesn't seem to be a candidate to be usurped as a starter.
Wood will be a primary backup barring any injuries. Though the possibility of him legitimately earning his old starting job isn't completely out of the question, it is a stretch at this juncture.
Is Slot Receiver a Settled Position?
The transfer of Davonte' Neal threw the Irish coaching staff for a whirl, as they were forced to scramble to find a suitable replacement at slot receiver.
Prosise, who was recruited to Notre Dame as a safety, was moved to the offensive side of the ball and has been a pleasant surprise thus far.
However, what he possesses in skill must compensate for his loose grasp of the mental side of the game. According to Coach Kelly (via nd.com):
“He's got a lot of really high-end traits in terms of speed and size. He's got to run better routes. He's got to track the ball consistently. But I'd rather work with a guy like that that has those traits and just know that he's a work in progress.”
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