SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur entered spring practice with a "blank slate," as he put it. While Everett Golson is still extremely likely to start for the Irish Aug. 30 against Rice, LaFleur didn't come to Notre Dame with any preconceived notions about Golson or Malik Zaire.
What Golson did in 2012 or how many stars Zaire came to Notre Dame with doesn't matter -- not 10 practices through spring ball.
LaFleur is still in the getting-to-know-you phase of coaching Notre Dame's quarterbacks after spending four seasons with the Washington Redskins prior to joining the Irish over the winter. And so far he doesn't see either quarterback as separating himself from his competition, though that's largely due to the nature of the situation.
"I haven't really sat down to evaluate it in that regard. Right now, it's all big picture," LaFleur said. "I'm not keeping track, I haven't totaled the numbers in terms of who's doing what. We're just trying to get on the same page just more or less in the quarterback room."
That's spring practice in a nutshell, a time in which few questions are answered. LaFleur said he doesn't see much merit in naming a starter right now, with other players largely working with position groups trying to make individual strides this spring.
But make no mistake, it'd be a surprise if Golson isn't Notre Dame's starter in August, even if Zaire has a good attitude toward the competition-that's-not-really-a-competition.
If anything, Zaire's bulldoggish mentality toward becoming Notre Dame's top quarterback is pushing Golson. And LaFleur said he hasn't noticed any bad blood between the two -- sure, there's competitiveness, but he's also observed some promising collaboration.
"If we don't have a guy that wants to be the guy, then we've got the wrong guy," LaFleur said. "So they better, in my opinion, have that desire to want to be the guy. And they're going to be competitive and I want them to be competitive. I think it brings out the best in people when there is that competitive spirit in the room. But at the same time, I think there's a level of respect between the two. I think it's a good situation."
LaFleur certainly is qualified to coach the playmaking duo of Golson and Zaire given his experience with Robert Griffin III in Washington. While Griffin was a next-level dual-threat quarterback in college (in which he won the Heisman Trophy) and the NFL (in which he won the 2012 NFL Rookie of the Year), LaFleur is able to impart some of the same teachings he did with RGIII on his two emerging Irish quarterbacks.
"I definitely use some of the NFL tape that I have to kind of show them some of the stuff we did with him," LaFleur said, "because they do have similar abilities, there's a similar skillset in that both those guys can run and they can throw."
It's a general comparison, but it's certainly an encouraging one for Notre Dame. But while Griffin came to Washington with well-honed skills, LaFleur is now tasked with laying that groundwork for Golson and Zaire.
Said LaFleur: "I'm trying to build that foundation with those guys right now so they can get more consistent with everything else we're doing."