Everett Golson may have returned to Notre Dame's campus, but he's not guaranteed to get his starting job back.
When asked about Golson on Friday, coach Brian Kelly said the early reports have been good -- but he publicly announced a quarterback competition of sorts that'll take place this spring and summer.
"I know we're always in this rush to move to Everett, but I just want to caution everybody that we have, I think, a very good quarterback in Malik Zaire as well," Kelly said. "And I'm not ready to hand everything over to Everett."
It's a message Kelly preached last fall when asked about Golson, but with a full year of coaching Zaire he was able to crystallize why that competition will take place.
Zaire joined Notre Dame last January as an early-enrolling freshman, though he redshirted the 2013 season. The dual-threat left-hander has a skillset and mindset Kelly and offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock like, though it took a getting-to-know-you process for them to learn how to coach up the young quarterback.
"We lost him a little bit, quite honestly," Kelly said.
When Zaire wasn't getting many practice reps in the middle of the 2013 season, his focus drifted. But eventually Kelly and his coaches got Zaire's concentration back, and he earned positive reviews for his showing in the early part of bowl practice last month.
But what Kelly really likes about Zaire is what he's been able to do on a grander stage. He holds the 2013 spring game (5/8, 62 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) as proof of that.
"When he gets into competitive situations he makes plays," Kelly said. "And you love your quarterback to be a playmaker."
But that's also what Golson is, the kind of playmaker who can push Notre Dame to season-defining (and season-saving) wins against Oklahoma and Pittsburgh in 2012. Golson started 10 of Notre Dame's 12 regular season games and then the BCS Championship two seasons ago, and made strides along the way. While he hasn't seen competitive action since Jan. 7, 2013, he still should be considered the favorite to win the job.
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Even if Notre Dame isn't going to come out and say it.
"I'm somebody that wants to make sure the quarterback position is such, especially with (QB coach Matt LaFleur) with us that we give everybody an opportunity to compete for that position, and Malik's going to get that chance as well."
Added Denbrock: "The best player plays. (Kelly) will make that very clear to the football team as we move forward."