Notre Dame Football: Should QB Andrew Hendrix Have a Bigger Role in Offense?

Connor KillorenSenior Analyst IOctober 10, 2013

STANFORD, CA - NOVEMBER 26:  Andrew Hendrix #12 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish runs with the ball against the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium on November 26, 2011 in Stanford, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The physical limitations of incumbent Notre Dame starting quarterback Tommy Rees are common knowledge. But what if there was a way to mask those deficiencies?

This proposal has been pondered and put in motion by head coach Brian Kelly sparingly this season.

Kelly, who is in his fourth season at the helm of the program, has briefly experimented with using redshirt junior quarterback Andrew Hendrix to provide the oft-desired athleticism at the quarterback position. Hendrix, a 6'2", 226-pounder who has spent the entirety of his collegiate career as a backup, has only taken 12 snaps this season but brought to the table what has been sorely lacking at his position: mobility.

Hendrix played half of those 12 snaps during Notre Dame's 35-21 loss to Oklahoma, rushing for 10 yards on five carries.

"You know, we're just trying to diversify the offense a bit," Kelly said during the postgame press conference, via WANE NewsChannel 15. "We're trying to add some more looks."

ORLANDO, FL - DECEMBER 29: Quarterback Andrew Hendrix #12 of the Notre Dame Fight Irish runs from the pocket against the Florida State Seminoles in the Champs Sports Bowl December 29, 2011 at the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida.  FSU won 18 - 14.
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Clearly, those aren't eye-popping figures, but Hendrix's presence in any game has a positive effect for the Irish offense.

Because he's a threat to move the chains as a rusher, opposing defenses aren't given the luxury of consistently loading the box, particularly on obvious passing downs.

Now, there's an obvious argument to made against Hendrix here. Because he's viewed simply as a running quarterback, defenses will react accordingly when he's inserted in the game in place of Rees, right?

While that's true in theory, it can be offset by Hendrix proving he's a capable downfield passer.

And never was that more evident than during a November evening two years ago in Palo Alto, Calif.

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 20:  Andrew Hendrix #12 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish runs against the BYU Cougars at Notre Dame Stadium on October 20, 2012 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated BYU 17-14.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Owning an overall record of 8-3 and entering a highly-anticipated showdown with Stanford in the 2011 regular season finale, the Notre Dame offense had operated similarly to how it has this season: The unit excelled against inferior defenses but wilted against quality competition.

That exact scenario played out during the first half of the Irish's eventual 28-14 loss to the Cardinal at Stanford Stadium. 

STANFORD, CA - NOVEMBER 26:  Andrew Hendrix #12 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in action against the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium on November 26, 2011 in Stanford, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Having a knowledge of the offense that was dwarfed in comparison to that of Rees, Hendrix's performance during the second half—Rees was benched just before halftime—was befuddling. The Cincinnati native completed 11-of-24 passing attempts for 192 yards for one touchdown, while rushing for another score.

His rushing total—20 yards on 12 carries—was a reflection of having been sacked on multiple occasions, but his presence in the game effectively forced a stingy Stanford defense to spread out, rather than pack in as it did with Rees in the game.

Don't confuse this reference with being a call for Hendrix to start. That's not what this is about.

While Kelly has been mum on Hendrix's relatively sparing amount of playing time throughout his career, there's a reason Hendrix hasn't supplanted Rees, or former starting quarterback Everett Golson for that matter.

But what Hendrix can provide the offense is a wrinkle to keep defenses honest.

How many snaps he'll receive during the remainder of the season remains unclear, but if Hendrix proves his capability as a true dual-threat quarterback, the Irish offense may find the change-of-pace option it has been looking for since the outset of the 2011 season.

Only time will tell.

"He has some work to do," Kelly said (also via WANE). "We're going to continue to work with him, but I think he gives us some things that the defense has to defend as well with him in there."