With quarterback Tommy Rees set to make his final start at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly hinted at the uncertainty surrounding Rees’ successor.
When asked for his opinion on how he would handle playing true freshman Malik Zaire if expected-starter Everett Golson was to get injured next season, Kelly had an interesting response, via WNDU.com’s Angelo Di Carlo:
"I'm not be cute but that's assuming that Everett is the starter right?" Kelly asked. "We think there is going to be some very good competition for that position with him. Certainly those two young man and we have to sit down with Andrew and where we go from there—and have that conversation with Andrew and find out where we move from there."
This comes days after Kelly announced that Golson—who missed the entire 2013 season after being suspended from the university due to cheating—would be applying for readmission to Notre Dame for the spring semester, via The Chicago Tribune’s Brian Hamilton.
Golson started 11 of 13 games for the Irish during the 2012 season. He threw for 2,405 yards, 12 touchdowns and six interceptions on 58.8 percent passing while adding another 298 yards and six scores on the ground.
Although his numbers weren't pretty, the Myrtle Beach, S.C., native was a vital part to Notre Dame’s run to the BCS title game.
On the other hand, Zaire redshirted this season.
An Archbishop Alter High product, he was given a 4-star composite rating by 247sports.com. Furthermore, Zaire was listed as the No. 4 prospect among dual-threat quarterbacks.
He chose the Irish over offers from Alabama, Arizona, Boston College and Cincinnati.
Kelly believes Zaire is fully prepared to take the next step in his career, via Di Carlo:
"I took him on every trip," Kelly said. "He got to see the different venues. He got to see the different atmospheres throughout the country. He's gotten to see what it's like to prepare on the road--really giving him that sense of what it takes in terms of the preparation to be the starting quarterback here. He's been in every meeting, he did not go down to scout team for one second. He's been involved in every game planning session. He just hasn't taken the reps which he will get a ton of reps as we break and get into the spring."
All in all, it should make for an interesting competition over the offseason, but the way Kelly handles the ball in this battle will be more scrutinized.
In year’s past, he’s been known to take his time in making a decision on the starter. This can only hurt the Irish, as it prevents the team from giving adequate preseason reps to the player who will be leading the charge under center.
Every rep counts in college football.
Not to mention, Kelly has a bad habit of yanking quarterbacks early and rotating them. He utilized such a strategy, if you will, in 2012 by putting in Rees at times when Golson struggled. Backup Andrew Hendrix has even made a couple appearances in games this season in relief of Rees.
In 2014, Kelly will have to make a decision at quarterback again.
If he hopes to succeed, it’s a decision he will need to make in a timely manner and stick with it.
All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of NCAA.com.