With the transgressions of Everett Golson coming to light over the weekend, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team finds itself without the player under center that helped lead it to a 12-1 record and a spot in the BCS title game.
While speculation abounds that Golson will attempt to re-enroll at Notre Dame for the 2014 season, this predicament presents coach Brian Kelly with the task of finding a new starting quarterback for the upcoming season.
Kelly gradually brought along Golson over the course of last season. Golson was a high-risk, high-reward option under center. The plan was not foolproof, as Kelly needed to insert senior-to-be Tommy Rees into action on multiple occasions.
Rees will be back in South Bend this fall, along with three other quarterbacks who appeared on Notre Dame’s spring roster. Here’s a look at the three front-runners and what each could bring to the table for the Fighting Irish this upcoming season.
Tommy Rees saw plenty of action during his junior campaign, and has appeared in 33 games for Notre Dame over his career. He became an integral part in helping the Fighting Irish preserve their undefeated regular season in 2012, helping lead Notre Dame past Purdue, Michigan, Miami, Stanford and BYU. He was the perfect safety net for the young Golson last season, filling in at quarterback in 11 of the 13 games the Fighting Irish played.
Rees isn’t going to wow anyone with his physical attributes, but his veteran presence and understanding of the offense were the backdrop for a number of key plays for Notre Dame last season, including its overtime victory against Stanford. The Fighting Irish could do a lot worse than having an experienced game-manager like Rees back at quarterback.
Hendrix threw just seven passes and had eight rushing attempts for Notre Dame last season, but will be a senior in 2013 and brings the potential of a different look in the backfield. With Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick – the Fighting Irish’s two leading rushers from a season ago – lost to graduation (Riddick) and an ill-advised jump to the NFL (Wood), there will be more carries available in the backfield. Over the course of Hendrix’s career, he’s been a change-of-pace quarterback, but there is the possibility that using a mobile signal-caller more could be what Kelly and the coaching staff are looking to do. The better likelihood is that Hendrix will remain a backup, only being thrust into action when called upon.
Zaire, a multi-dimensional threat in the same mold as Golson, enrolled at Notre Dame this January to get a jump start on his freshman year. He’s a four-star, left-handed quarterback out of Ohio who most expected to redshirt this season had Golson stayed in school. Whether or not Kelly would want to turn the reigns over to an inexperienced yet talented quarterback (like he did in 2012 with Golson) remains to be seen. Zaire represents the future of the position at Notre Dame, but preserving an extra year of eligibility and rolling with veterans could be what Kelly chooses to do.
As a fan, my vote would be to roll with Rees and let Zaire get a full year under his belt before throwing him into the spotlight. There’s a chance Golson could be back by then, but a little competition never hurt anyone, right?