Notre Dame QB Quandary: Searching for the Savior

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Notre Dame QB Quandary: Searching for the Savior

Jimmy Clausen came to Notre Dame in 2007 with all the hype and hysteria that a Fighting Irish quarterback can conceivably generate before ever putting on a golden dome and sprinting through the tunnel of Notre Dame Stadium.

But the Clausen era is over. The California golden boy has wrapped up a disappointing 15-win career and taken his perfect pedigree to the NFL. In his wake lies a Notre Dame quarterback situation with more questions than answers and more turmoil than solutions.


The Facts

Dayne Crist is recovering (well ahead of schedule) from his November knee surgery. Crist went 10-for-20 in 2009 with 130 yards passing and a touchdown in 2009. If he recovers fully, he should be the next starting quarterback at Our Mother.

Tommy Rees surprised many when word came out that he had enrolled early at the university this week. There was plenty of speculation that one of the recruited quarterbacks would try to take advantage of the question marks in the Irish backfield and Rees certainly capitalized on the situation.

The Lake Forest, Ill., product threw for over 4,000 yards in his last two years of high school and comes out as the 31st ranked quarterback according to Rivals.com. He’ll be splitting quality reps throughout the spring semester in South Bend.

Nate Montana, son of ND legend Joe, also re-enrolled for the second semester after spending the fall at Pasadena City College. Montana went 31-for-88 for the Lancers, including five interceptions and two touchdowns.

Finally, John Goodman, a wide receiver for the past two years, may get the call at quarterback over the next five months. The athletic former quarterback at Bishop Dwenger High School in Fort Wayne, Ind., has shown a willingness to switch positions and help the program survive the current dearth of QBs.

The Fallacies

Crist will be full-go for spring practices.

Rees is under-hyped.

Montana is a college quarterback.

John Goodman is ready to run a spread offense right now.

Crist’s health is issue No. 1 for new head coach Brian Kelly. He is the one true, reasonably well-seasoned thrower in the crowd, and he’s more valuable at Notre Dame right now than the 11 national championship trophies.

The reality is that, come April, the Great Dayne will be wearing the brightest yellow “non-contact” jersey the equipment managers can find. Don’t be surprised if Crist spends the 15 spring practices throwing from the Popemobile or from behind a wall of bright yellow crime scene tape in order to keep him upright, healthy, and ready to go for Purdue.

Rees is a nice "get" for the Irish, but he’s a very average recruit. He had production and interception issues during the first few games of his senior season and has been ranked as low as No. 49 (Scout.com) by the recruiting experts.

Montana’s numbers at Pasadena City College are troubling. He never started in high school and wasn’t even the No. 1 guy at PCC. He’s a good kid, a solid student, and he has great quarterback lineage, but he’s not ready for prime time, much less the high expectations of a backup quarterback role.

Goodman is a remarkable athlete and he’ll bring excitement to the quarterback quandary, but that’s it. Too many questions abound and spring ball will serve as the ultimate proving ground for what Goodman can bring to the table for ND.

The Speculation

This is where is gets fun. According to the South Bend Tribune and CBS Sports analyst Tom Lemming, the Irish could give a long and meaningful look to Cole Marcoux. 

The out-of-nowhere 6'5" Manhattan kid with the rocket arm made his presence felt at last weekend's U.S. Army All-American bowl by out-performing fellow East team quarterbacks A.J. Derby (Iowa), Barry Brunetti (West Virginia), and Paul Jones (Penn State).

Marcoux completed five passes for 99 yards and two touchdowns while the other three highly touted East quarterbacks combined for a 3-for-15 day, zero TDs, and just 47 yards.

According to Lemming, the Irish could (and should) look Marcoux’s way in the next few days as the four-day dead period ends on Friday. If Brian Kelly is serious about some new blood, the current Dartmouth commit and current college recruiting "hot topic" could fill that need.

That need for new blood is a reaction to the instability of Andrew Hendrix. At one time the Cincinnati slinger and top-15 prospect (according to both Rivals.com and Scout.com) was a Notre Dame lock and a good bet to push Crist from the start. But his recent (and benumbing) interest in the Florida Gators, despite the fact that he’s never really been on their radar, and his continued wavering, has put his commitment in jeopardy.

Lemming, the South Bend Tribune, and other sources have also raised the profiles of Scotty Young and Bret Visciglia. 

Young, a Texas Tech commit from Denton, Tex., is reportedly up for grabs after the firing of Mike Leach while Visciglia, a junior college QB at Los Angeles Valley, has supposedly been on the Weis/Kelly radar because of the kid he used to backup at Sherman Oaks High School, Dayne Crist.

The Last Word(?)

The last word for now is unknown. Will it be Crist with some intriguing backups in the form of young Rees, the athletic Goodman, and the developing Montana?

Will there be a surprise in the next 21 days of CFB recruiting with a tall Texan, a surprising New Yorker, or a mysterious Californian finding their ways to South Bend?

Will Brian Kelly pull off a headline-stealing coup that includes a high profile quarterback and a name or two from the list of uncommitted stars like Seantrel Henderson, Ego Ferguson, Anthony Barr, or Matt James?

For the college football world, Bowl Championship Week is not the only must-see TV for the month of January.

Stay tuned. This one is not over. 

For Brian Kelly and his new recruiting staff, it’s only just begun.

PHOTO COURTESY OF UHND.COM

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