SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly isn’t ready to name a starting quarterback for 2013 – or 2014.
Speaking for the first time since Everett Golson was suspended by the university Friday for poor academic judgment, Kelly said all three remaining quarterbacks will get a chance to win the job when practices resume in August. Golson is out for the fall semester and will have to re-enroll at the school, which he has indicated he intends to do.
“It’s certainly going to be a challenge,” Kelly said. “He is our starting quarterback. He started in a national championship game. But we’re very fortunate we have experienced quarterbacks in Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix.”
Kelly said Rees and Hendrix both have a strong understanding of his offense, and freshman Malik Zaire, who enrolled in January, picked up a lot during spring practices.
“It’s going to be a challenge, but one we think we can overcome,” he said. “That’s what these kids are about. They overcame a lot last year, and they’ll continue to do it this year regardless of who’s at that quarterback position.”
Rees is the most experienced quarterback. He started 12 of 13 games in 2011, when Notre Dame went 8-5, and played key roles in four victories last season when Golson either struggled or was injured. But part of the reason Rees lost the starting job last season was he threw 14 interceptions and lost five fumbles in 2011.
Kelly said Rees knows what he needs to do to start, and knows he can’t be turning the ball over.
“He was a huge part of our undefeated season. He’s going to be a part of this season, as well. He knows what we expect of him on a day-to-day basis,” he said.
But he also added that no one who throws interceptions is going to keep the job long.
Hendrix has played in eight games the past two seasons, completing 23-of-44 passes for 304 yards with two interceptions and one touchdown. He also has rushed the ball 33 times for 203 yards.
Kelly said he liked what he saw from Zaire in the spring.
“We’re very encouraged and believe he has an opportunity to have a great future, but it’s really too early to tell,” he said.
Kelly said he expects Golson to be back in 2014, but said it’s too early to say whether he will be the starter.
“I’m really focused on right now,” he said.
Kelly compared being a coach to being a father, saying he’s disappointed in Golson, but is proud of the way Golson took accountability.
“I think this is going to truly be his defining moment. That he’s going to grow and live and learn from this mistake,” he said.
Golson’s former coach at Myrtle Beach High School, Mickey Wilson Jr., had similar thoughts, saying the QB’s hometown fans have faith in him.
“We believe he will learn from this and continue to grow as a young man both on and off the field,” he said in an email.
Kelly said no other schools have contacted Notre Dame about the possibility of Golson transferring. He also said he didn’t try to contact Gunner Kiel, one of the top-rated quarterbacks coming out of high school a year ago, who transferred from Notre Dame to Cincinnati at the end of the spring semester.
“That’s not something I’ve ever done, nor would I do. I’m going to coach the guys that want to be here at Notre Dame,” he said.
Kelly also said he expects defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes from Auburn, Calif., to show up for summer school next month. There have been media reports that Vanderdoes, a five-star recruit, may be having second thoughts about playing for the Irish.
“We’ll see who shows up. There’s always a surprise or two. We hope they’re all here when they’re asked to report in June,” Kelly said.