The season-long suspension of quarterback Everett Golson was never viewed as a death sentence for Notre Dame, in large part because its backup, Tommy Rees, has so much starting experience.
But apparently the job is still up for grabs.
Per Rachel Terlep of the Elkhart Truth, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly left the door open for a potential quarterback change during the season:
#NotreDame HC Brian Kelly on QB Tommy Rees: "I didn't name him the starter for all 13 games. I named him the starter for Temple."— Rachel Terlep (@eTruth_Irish) August 2, 2013
This is confusing for a number of reasons. Chief among them is this quote Kelly issued in June, per the Grand Rapids Press, around two weeks after Golson left the team:
We always move forward...I don’t live in the past, and I don’t spend too much time in the future. I live in the present, and in the present, we have Tommy Rees. We have Tommy Rees, who is an established player, and he will be our starter. We think Andrew Hendrix and Malik Zaire can contribute, but Tommy will be our starter.
Nowhere in that interview did Kelly qualify his statement. He didn't declare Rees his starter "against Temple," as he now asserts—he named him the starter period. Or at least that's the impression he gave off.
So why the about face?
That's the more interesting question. Is this normal, start-of-camp coach-speak—apropos to, say, declaring "every position is up for grabs"—or is it the seedling of something bigger?
Has Hendrix or Zaire shown Kelly something remarkable this offseason? Has Rees given him cause for doubt? Is this actually a competition going forward?
For those who think the affirmative, here's some fodder to chew on: Kelly also said that Zaire, a true freshman quarterback and 4-star recruit, will practice with the regulars—not the scout team:
#NotreDame HC Brian Kelly says frosh QB Malik Zaire stays with regulars, not scout team. "Malik needs to see it, he needs to be with us."— Brian Hamilton (@ChiTribHamilton) August 2, 2013
All that seems to be set in stone is Golson's year-long hiatus. Kelly chimed in with a timetable for his return, saying he'll be back in January and talks with offensive coordinator Chuck Martin almost daily:
#NotreDame's Brian Kelly: Expect Everett Golson back in Jan. Plan will be in place this fall. Says OC Chuck Martin talks w/ him nearly daily— Matt Fortuna (@Matt_Fortuna) August 2, 2013
That's great news for the Irish going forward, but for those—like Kelly—who are living in the present, the ambivalence concerning Rees is more important. Is this a story about a non-story, or was Kelly laying the framework for an actual controversy at quarterback?
Only time will tell.