Golson may be favorite, but Notre Dame QB battle not close to ending

Golson may be favorite, but Notre Dame QB battle not close to ending
August 17, 2012, 6:18 pm
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame's quarterback competition has created a second position battle on the fields of the LaBar Practice Complex. This one, though, has nothing to do with playing time or depth charts.

Brian Kelly's purple-faced outbursts on NBC last season gained national notoriety, so the thought of him having to play good cop with Notre Dame's quarterbacks seems a bit odd. But that's first-year offensive coordinator Chuck Martin's goal.

"We both want to be the bad cop. We're usually in a race to get there first so we could be the bad cop and force the other guy's hand to be the good cop," laughed Martin. "So I've out-flanked him in practice, I like to cheat up as the cadence goes to where I'm almost behind him, so if I want to unload I can really get on him and force Kelly to be the good cop."

While neither Kelly nor Martin would hint at who their starter will be Sept. 1 against Navy, the general consensus around campus is that Everett Golson will get the nod. Kelly said Thursday he'll move away from a 50-50 reps split between Golson and Andrew Hendrix early next week and speak with both quarterbacks about their position.

But that conversation won't represent a final decision.

"But there's still so much learning, so it wouldn't be as cut and dry as say, here's my No. 1," Kelly said. "The door will still be open for growth during that week, but we'll start to separate the reps a little bit."

The door is certainly still open for Hendrix -- or Golson, if the coaching staff goes in another direction -- to gain the starting role before the Navy game. Either way, though, Notre Dame will head to Dublin with a quarterback who has never started a collegiate game.

"It can all be decided and look perfect in practice, and when the lights go on -- we all know from being around this game that, when the lights go on, kids react differently," explained Martin. "Some kids play better than they ever play, and some kids play worse. Whoever gets the first chance is going to have to go out there and play and prove to everyone that they can be capable of doing the job. Not that we're looking for a quick hook, I'm not saying that, just it still will be an unknown when we send that kid out there for the first series."

Notre Dame's already used the quick hook under Kelly, with Dayne Christ finding himself on the bench of last year's season opener after a rough first half. If a change is made at quarterback, it may not be during the Navy game. It could come the week after.

"You're always preparing for all the eventualities -- if those two kids (Golson and Hendrix) don't look like they're handling the job description, and you got a guy who's won a bunch of games for us," Martin said, referring to Tommy Rees. "And that's depending on a lot of factors -- is it one guy, is it two guys, is it two guys battling it out, is one guy battling it out, did they both play well, did they both fall on their face. We're prepared to go any direction, I'm sure coach is prepared for every eventuality, but it's just going to play out."

Rees' presence has been described as positive in preseason camp, but with the incumbent starter suspended for the season opener, there exists a chance that Rees re-enters the conversation after Week 1.

"I know Tommys itching to get back, were all itching to get Tommy back as well, because when hes in there working, we see what hes doing, we get the reps mentally," Hendrix said. "When Tommy comes back, coach Kelly will obviously play it how he knows best, we trust him in that. But we are excited to have Tommy back."

But interceptions were a problem for Rees last season, and Kelly and the Notre Dame coaching staff are trying to eradicate those turnover woes from the offense. Golson, to his credit, has only thrown one interception in preseason practice, a note which Kelly lauded on Thursday.

"You build trust," Kelly said. "You don't just give it, you build trust ... and he's exhibited that trust in the way he's handled himself in camp."

Whether Golson can keep that trust through Week 1 remains to be seen, as well as if Hendrix has it or Rees can earn it back. Ideally, Kelly and Martin would like to stick with the same quarterback from Week 1 through bowl season. But if they can't do that, Notre Dame's quarterback competition could extend into the fall.

"At the end of the day, you still are going to battle until you get it right," Martin said. "Sometimes it takes longer, especially at that spot."