No separation in Notre Dame quarterback battle

No separation in Notre Dame quarterback battle
August 9, 2012, 12:45 am
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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."