Notre Dame opened up spring practice this week with the first of 15 practices. The Irish will begin the process anew searching for answers, attempting to fill some holes, and start their march toward a national championship. We begin our series ofnthe 2013 roster with the most important position, quarterback.
The biggest news coming into the spring is the departure of rising sophomore Gunner Kiel. Kiel didn't play at all last season and with Everett Golson seemingly entrenched as the starter, the future for Kiel increasingly looked like it would be headed elsewhere. While it's never nice when someone transfers, particularly someone with the talent of Kiel, Notre Dame still has four quality options at the QB position.
Obviously, the starter will be junior-to-be Everett Golson. Golson entered last spring as #3 or #4 on the depth chart, but with a good spring, and outstanding Blue-Gold game and the fall practice, he won the starting job and proved to be the answer as the season went along. He threw for 2,405 yards with 12 touchdowns and 6 interceptions last season while also rushing for 298 yards and six more touchdowns. The best thing about Golson is his improvement over the course of the season. He went from inexperienced and shaky to trustworthy and solid by the end of the season. He put the team on his back a few times in the second half of 2012 and was one of the few bright spots in the national championship game. With three years of eligibility remaining, Golson seems like the present and future of the position.
Behind Golson returns two players with experience that can certainly step in if necessary. The first is rising senior and former starter Tommy Rees. Rees may have been the most unpopular player on the team coming into the 2012 season, but quickly turned the boos into cheers with his play. Rees could have packed it in and left after Golson beat him out for the starting job, but, instead, Rees dug in and did whatever was asked of him. And Irish fans are thankful for that. Rees missed the first game of the season because of suspension, but played in 9 of the remaining 11 contests during the regular season often times coming in with the game on the line. In fact, without Rees last season, the Irish could have and maybe would have lost to Purdue, Michigan, Stanford, and BYU. He directly led the Irish to victories in all of those wins. Now he enters his final season in South Bend once again as the ace in the bullpen if and when he is needed.
Following Rees is senior-to-be Andrew Hendrix. Hendrix seemed like he might be the compromise choice as the starter heading into last season, but instead became the third string guy who barely played. He saw action in only three contests going 5-7 for 55 yards and rushing for 41 more. He'll probably suffer the same fate this season barring injuries, but is a guy that the coaches feel they can win with if his number is called. He has some experience and possesses a strong arm and a rushing ability that fits with Brian Kelly's system.
Rounding out the depth chart is early enrollee freshman Malik Zaire. Zaire, like Golson, seems like a perfect fit for Brian Kelly. He has a live arm and great athletic ability and looks to be the heir apparent to Golson at the position. The question will be how long it takes him to see the field. Conventional wisdom says he'll sit the season to preserve a year of eiligibility especially with guys like Rees and Hendrix ahead of him, but with his potential, Zaire could be too good to keep on the bench.
This is Everett Golson's position until he leaves Notre Dame. He proved why he won the starting job last year with his play down the stretch and with three more years potentially ahead of him, he could become one of the greatest to ever play the position at Notre Dame if he keeps improving. All the young mistakes he made early last season almost disappeared by the end. He still needs to work on reading defenses, getting the team into the right play, and setting up the proper alignments, but this should be one position Irish fans won't have to worry about. While the position is Golson's, it is nice to have a guy like Tommy Rees, who, whether you like him or not, knows how to play the game and just wins games. Andrew Hendrix is another insurance policy to have in case of disaster and a guy who can play well. Malik Zaire will be the starter at some point and will be a very good player when his time comes, but that will not be for a while. Regardless, this position is stocked with quality talent for the foreseeable future.
1. Everett Golson, Jr.
2. Tommy Rees, Sr.
3. Andrew Hendrix, Sr.
4. Malik Zaire, Fr.*