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Farmer: I told you so: quarterbacks don’t matter (Nov. 29)

Douglas Farmer | Monday, November 28, 2011

STANFORD, Calif. — This column seems very familiar. In fact, above it could sit a sentence in italics: “Editor’s note: This column originally ran online at ndsmcobserver.com Monday, August 22.” That column’s title still rings true: “Kelly’s quarterback announcement doesn’t matter.”

Then, Irish fans wondered if senior Dayne Crist or sophomore Tommy Rees would lead the offense against South Florida in the season-opener.

Now, Irish fans wonder if Rees or sophomore Andrew Hendrix will take the field first in the Champs Sports Bowl on Dec. 29, and, subsequently, who will have the advantage to start at quarterback next season.

Then, prevailing sentiment leaned toward Crist, thanks to his physical appearance, high-profile recruitment and general skill set.

Now, prevailing sentiment leans toward Hendrix, thanks to his running ability, relative success against Stanford and future possibilities.

Then and now, worries about Rees stemmed from his lack of speed, arm strength and low profile. Then and now, Irish coach Brian Kelly stood by Rees thanks to his record as a starter, now at 12-3.

Then and now, whoever takes the snap from center doesn’t matter.

Both Rees and Hendrix are immensely talented, and each has skills the other lacks, but neither is the key to this version of the Irish, be it in the bowl game or next season. If the success of next season comes down to whom Kelly names bowl game starter, next season is already doomed. Not because neither Rees nor Hendrix is up to the task, but because so much else already would have gone wrong.

Look at Bob Diaco’s defense. Next year it will return seven starters, as well as current freshmen linemen Stephon Tuitt and Aaron Lynch — both of whom have excelled in extended playing time — as well as their classmate and linebacker Ishaq Williams. With this defense, Kelly’s starter should not face an 80-yard field very often.

Look at the offensive weapons waiting for either Rees or Hendrix. Yes, senior Michael Floyd only has one game left in a Notre Dame uniform, but do not underestimate current sophomore TJ Jones, junior Theo Riddick and junior tight end Tyler Eifert. Add in junior Cierre Wood with the backfield all to his own and another 1,000-yard season is inevitable. Who knows what current freshman receiver DaVaris Daniels and freshman running back George Atkinson will add to the recipe?

With that corps, points will come if Kelly’s quarterback can simply get the ball within a few feet of Eifert or to Riddick and Woods three yards past the line of scrimmage.

From a physical standpoint, Kelly’s designee should not have to do much in the bowl game or next season. This year’s Irish did not lose four games because of Crist or Rees. Notre Dame lost four games because of repeated defensive secondary collapses and an inexcusable influx of turnovers. This year’s Irish lost four games because of unrecoverable slow starts and special team woes. This year’s Irish lost four games for a multitude of reasons, but Tommy Rees was not among them.

Furthermore, starting the bowl game will not give either Rees or Hendrix the added experience necessary to be a star next season. The bowl game will accomplish little for the Irish in any sense aside from possibly adding another win to the season’s tally. When it comes to the gauntlet known as the 2012 schedule, however, don’t look to bowl game successes or failures as precursors. Winter lifting, spring practice and summer workouts all exist for a reason. The Champs Sports Bowl exists solely to provide an enjoyable nightcap to this up-and-down season.

In the end, Notre Dame fans need not worry about the quarterback, whoever it may be. Their time is better spent biting their fingernails over Manti Te’o’s NFL Draft status.

Contact Douglas Farmer at dfarmer1@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.