News broke that shook up the roster of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Saturday night. Kevin Lewis and Angelo Di Carlo of NBC affiliate WNDU reported that starting quarterback Everett Golson was no longer enrolled in the school.
The Chicago Tribune's Brian Hamilton also reported that sources identified a Res Life violation as the cause for Golson's absence.
We wish Golson the best, and hopefully, the issue resolves itself, whether that means he's suspended from Notre Dame for a time period or forced to enroll elsewhere. As for the Irish, the absence of their expected starter now forces them into yet another multi-headed quarterback race.
The Irish entered 2012 with Tommy Rees, Andrew Hendrix, Gunner Kiel and Golson all hoping to win the job. Now, with spring ball gone, Brian Kelly is looking to August to find a starting quarterback all over again.
Losing Golson hurts; he was expected to get better this year as the coaches' trust in him grew following the 2012 campaign. His departure leaves Rees, Hendrix and newcomer Malik Zaire. While Kelly's playbook will not exactly change, what you can expect to see from the three guys fighting for the job certainly will differ.
In Rees, you know exactly what you are going to get. He is a player who is a capable game-manager. In 2012, Rees helped the Irish out of a couple tight jams before ultimately finding a place on the bench as Golson took over the show for good.
Rees does not bring the athleticism of the other two candidates, but he does bring a superior understanding of the scheme and plenty of experience. He gets the ball out quick, and while he will do a solid job of not beating his own team, he is also not going to be the reason it wins many games.
In other words, Rees is, yet again, the safe option at quarterback. The playbook is cut down, not because he does not understand it, but rather because he is limited athletically—fewer rollouts, more quick passes out of the gun and little-to-no designed runs to tax defenses.
Hendrix has more athleticism. The rising senior is no Golson, but he is more capable of getting outside the pocket, rolling out and making throws on the run than Rees. While he won't be a true run threat on every play, he can keep a zone read or two in a game to force the defense to stay honest.
Hendrix only has limited game experience and finished third in the quarterback race a year ago, only beating out the new kid on the block, Gunner Kiel. Thanks to the Golson news, Hendrix will be looking to beat out Rees and another stud, early enrollee freshman Malik Zaire.
While Rees drastically shrinks your options from a play-call standpoint, Zaire is the guy who keeps all of the same "Golson-type" options on the table. Don't let the "dual-threat" label fool you, Zaire is a pass-first quarterback who just happens to be capable of running for yardage or buying time in the pocket.
The obvious issue with Zaire is just how much of the playbook he has digested. Sure, his athleticism and natural abilities afford the offense more opportunity, but if he has not mastered enough of the scheme, then he cannot help the Irish—at least not to the point where he becomes the best option.
Zaire looks to be the quarterback of the future for this program. However, Notre Dame returns a roster that is primed to win right now. In August, we'll find out which of these three gives Notre Dame the opportunity to return to the BCS championship picture.