No separation in Notre Dame quarterback battle

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No separation in Notre Dame quarterback battle

SOUTH BEND -- Everett Golson has thought about the scene. A packed Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland on Sept. 1, trotting out for Notre Dame's first offensive possession of the season as the team's starting quarterback.

"Honestly, I've had dreams about it, kinda seeing visions of it," Golson said after practice Wednesday, Notre Dame's fifth of fall camp. "Me being out there, the crowd and everything. But that's what motivates me just to keep going, keep driving and learn as much as I can."

With junior Tommy Rees suspended for the Navy game, whoever takes the ball for Notre Dame in just over three weeks will be inexperienced. Andrew Hendrix has in-game experience at the NCAA level, but it's limited, and Golson has never taken a snap in a college game.

Less than a week into camp, the Irish quarterback battle has been defined as Hendrix against Golson -- both players have been splitting reps with the first and second team, while freshman Gunner Kiel has seen limited reps, coming exclusively with the third team.

While it seemed as if Golson took more first-team reps in Wednesday's practice, Notre Dame players and coaches dismissed anything but a 50-50 split in reps between Golson and Hendrix. But even if the first-team reps lean toward one player, Hendrix doesn't see it as a roadblock to the other earning the starting job.

"It's the same work you get with the ones and the twos, I think, because it's the same reads and the timing's almost the same," Hendrix said. "Really, it's when you're in, focusing on the defense and just making the right reads off that."

Kiel, a true freshman who came to Notre Dame a semester early, didn't appear too bothered by his likely No. 3 spot on the depth chart.

"Whatever the coaches want me to do, that's all I can say," Kiel said. "They're there, and they're going to teach us. If Andrew and Everett are going to get more reps than I am, that's fine. I'm going to be the best player I'm going to be for the team and do whatever I can to make the team better."

After a turnover-plagued 2011, limiting mistakes has been the mantra from head coach Brian Kelly and first-year offensive coordinator Chuck Martin since the beginning of spring camp. While Kelly preached attention to detail and zero as a positive play last year, those talking points never materialized into results.

But it's a new year, and Notre Dame's quarterbacks don't expect the same issues to pop back up.

"Our team is so good around us, the quarterback position, we don't have to win the games, we just have to get the ball to our horses and let the playmakers do their job and just minimize mistakes," Hendrix said. "We moved backwards sometimes last year, and as long as we're always moving forward, never having negatives plays, we're going to be a very good football team."

Both Hendrix and Golson aren't getting caught up in their position in the competition, which has been labeled as 1A and 1B early in camp. There's still plenty of time for separation, but until a starter is named, neither are paying much attention to what their standing may be, or what others are saying their standing may be.

"I try to stay as far away from that as possible," Golson said. "You don't really want to get too high, you don't want to get too low. You have to keep that medium. The best way to do that is to stay away from it and let people just talk."

But there does exist the possibility that either Golson or Hendrix won't be named the starter for the Navy game. And that's not anything against them -- instead, if there's no separation between the two, both could receive their fair share of playing time in the season opener.

"We'll know if we get to game time that both of them have to play," Kelly said. "Obviously they both have ability to be starters. I can't say that I wouldn't be comfortable. I'd prefer one quarterback, but at least I have some experience in balancing two if we ever have to do that. "

While there appears to be some genuine camaraderie between Golson, Hendrix, Kiel and Rees -- whose fellow quarterbacks have lauded for his attitude while not taking any reps, at least in Wednesday's practice -- at the end of the day, it's a competition, and most likely one player will emerge at the end.

"I really just focus on myself. That's the only way you can focus on it," Hendrix said. "I think you just gotta keep your own head down, keep chopping wood and at the end of the day, coach Kelly's going to make the decision that's best for the football team. I can only control what I do, and that's all I focus on."

Five things to watch during Bulls’ training camp

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USA Today Sports Images

Five things to watch during Bulls’ training camp

All the new guys: Last October, the Bulls entered camp with essentially the same roster that lost to Cleveland in the second round of the 2015 playoffs, save for then-rookie Bobby Portis. This time, there’s no Derrick Rose, no Joakim Noah, no Pau Gasol, no Mike Dunleavy, and no E’Twaun Moore.

That’s four starters (essentially) whose performances or presence has been counted on in some way, even through some of the uncertainty that surrounded a few of these guys.

Conceivably, the Bulls can have around five new players in the actual rotation who weren’t thought of this time last year, although last year’s product left a lot to be desired.

The adjustment time and chemistry building starts Tuesday.

Who starts at power forward: All other positions in the first five are set, especially with the new faces. But the pivotal decision for Fred Hoiberg, if it hasn’t been made already, is who will start alongside Robin Lopez at center. It could be Nikola Mirotic, or Taj Gibson or even Bobby Portis, depending on Hoiberg’s sensibilities.

Smart money says it’ll probably be Mirotic considering he’s the best perimeter shooter of the three and actually a decent defensive rebounder. Gibson being a great screener, finisher and defender makes him intriguing as an option, but offensive space will be limited if he’s out there with Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo. As for Portis, is he ready to take a step toward consistency in year 2?

The point guard: Rajon Rondo’s basketball intelligence is genius level, where he can master a gameplan and probably even devise one of his own that rivals his coaches. The man can counter a play before the opposing defense initiates an adjustment. That said, how will he and Hoiberg mesh this season? He clashed with Doc Rivers, had knock-down battles with Rick Carlisle in Dallas and George Karl didn’t have it in him to fight anybody in Sacramento, let alone Rondo.

Rondo likes playing the game at his speed, with his own feel and rhythm. Hoiberg will have to tailor his style for the new personnel he has, and luckily for him, isn’t a “my way or the highway” type of fellow that’s sure to rub Rondo the wrong way. Will Rondo embrace Hoiberg’s system and become an extension of the coach, or will Hoiberg give Rondo enough rope to explore Rondo’s intelligence to find a middle ground?

Will that even be enough?

The backup point guard: Just as intriguing as the starting power forward battle will be who backs up Rondo at point guard, although it’s likely that player won’t have to fill the traditional role of doing anything aside from walking the ball up and letting either Butler or Wade initiate the offense.

It’s likely Hoiberg will change his substitution patterns to have either Wade or Butler anchor second units in the second quarter, as a way to maximize the time he has with both while not having them invade each other’s space in the halfcourt. So who plays backup point could be more about who fits best next to the best player on the floor as opposed to who the best player is.

It seems to open the door for rookie Denzel Valentine since he can play three positions (although defense will be a task), along with Jerian Grant, Isaiah Canaan and Spencer Dinwiddie.

Grant was a first-rounder in 2015 who wants to show he’s worth that status, while Dinwiddie was projected as a lottery pick three years ago before tearing his ACL at Colorado.

It’s certainly not the most stressful decision Hoiberg will have to make, but a curious one.

Developing an identity: Does it happen in training camp? Who knows, but tones are often set as to what type of squad a team will be. Last season, Hoiberg believed he was building on a solid foundation after Tom Thibodeau’s defense first mentality, but signs of things crumbling began to show very early in the preseason.

This season, with so many new pieces, moving parts and overall uncertainty, there’s question as to what kind of team the Bulls will be. It’s intriguing, to say the least. But what will the Bulls hang their hats on come late October?

ESPN to broadcast Notre Dame-Syracuse, NC State kickoff still TBD

ESPN to broadcast Notre Dame-Syracuse, NC State kickoff still TBD

ESPN selected Notre Dame's road game at North Carolina State for a six-day option, meaning we won't know what time that contest will kick off until after Oct. 1's games. 

The other two ACC games selected as part of the six-day option are Virginia Tech at North Carolina and Florida State at Miami. Both FSU (No. 12) and Miami (No. 14) are ranked in the latest AP top 25, while Virginia Tech and North Carolina both received votes in the poll. Notre Dame and NC State did not receive any votes in this week's AP poll. 

Notre Dame's game against Syracuse at MetLife Stadium this Saturday will be broadcast by ESPN, the ACC also announced, and will kick off at noon E.T.