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Prister: Football – Spring Fever (Mar. 31)

Eric Prister | Thursday, March 31, 2011

A team that has four quarterbacks has no quarterback.

This was a lesson learned the hard way by the 2007 Irish football squad, which played three quarterbacks in the first game and went on to win the same amount of games that season.

It doesn’t matter what style of football a team plays, if it’s a defensive-minded team or if it has a Heisman candidate at running back — not having a set quarterback to look to for guidance and stability can ruin a team’s season.

For this reason, Notre Dame’s quarterback for next season is probably the most important topic of conversation this spring not centered on Michael Floyd.

Junior Dayne Crist, freshmen Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix and early enrollee Everett Golson each have a legitimate shot at being the starting quarterback, and this is both a positive and a negative for the Irish football program.

Crist began last season as the starting quarterback, has the most experience and probably has the best grasp of Brian Kelly’s offense. His physical tools are exceptional and as long as his recovery goes well, he can be a successful quarterback for Notre Dame.

Rees filled in for Crist after he was hurt in the Tulsa game, and went on to win all four games he started. He would not need much work to grasp Kelly’s system, and he has proven himself a winner, if not much else.

Hendrix and Golson are still giant question marks. Neither has played a snap for the Irish, and few people have even seen them in practice for an extended period of time. Hendrix has good size and speed for a quarterback, and Golson has the throwing and running tools to be a star, but only Kelly knows how ready either of them is to step into the starting role.

Each potential starter has his positives, negatives and unknowns, and I certainly will not claim to have any special insight into who will be the quarterback next season. Crist is capable if he’s healthy, but he did struggle at times last season. Rees wins games, but does not look like he has the physical skills to be a game-changer at quarterback, and struggled mightily against USC, the most athletic defensive corps he faced. Hendrix looks like he fits the quarterback mold, but he may not have the athleticism to fit well into a spread offense. Golson, based solely on his high school film, looks to be the best fit for Kelly’s offense, but he’s only a freshman and learning the offense this quickly may be too much to ask.

But there is one major difference between this year’s team and the 2007 Fighting Irish — the coaching staff. Kelly is in charge now, and he will not play games with arguably the most important position on the field. By fall practice, Notre Dame almost certainly will have named a quarterback, and he will be the guy. He will not have to worry mid-game about his job being in jeopardy, and the rest of the team will not have to question which player is their leader.

The other thing in which Irish fans can have confidence is that Notre Dame’s quarterback will be capable. Crist is a capable quarterback — he’s proven that, no matter how often people point out the mistakes he made. So if he is named the starter, the Irish will have a solid player under center. The more important fact, though, is that if Crist is not the starter, whoever is has been judged by Kelly as more capable. Fans should trust Kelly’s judgment and should trust that whichever quarterback Kelly chooses, he will be the right one.

A team with four quarterbacks has no quarterback, and right now Notre Dame does not have a quarterback. But rest assured, by the time Sept. 3 rolls around and the Irish prepare to take the field against South Florida, everyone — the coaches, the players and the fans — will know who Notre Dame’s quarterback is, and he will be the man for the job.