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Joseph: Four-way QB scramble yields clear best choice (April 20)

Allan Joseph | Friday, April 20, 2012

“Quarterback Scramble,” huh?

That sounds about right, and it isn’t just because I love breakfast food.

This is really a wide-open race – as it should be.

As often as I criticize Tommy Rees for poor arm strength and bad throws, Irish coach Brian Kelly has faith in him. And yes, I know, columnists aren’t supposed to admit this, but Kelly knows a lot more about football than I do.

Anyone who has watched Everett Golson’s nearly-legendary high school highlight reel knows why he has such a large following in ND Nation. Golson’s athleticism is unmatched under center, and the growing success of mobile quarterbacks in college football makes choosing him tempting.

Of course, how can you count out the No. 1 quarterback recruit in the entire nation, especially considering his name is Gunner? The young Kiel has a skill set nearly unheard of at his young age, and his early enrollment might just give him enough time to become familiar enough with the offense to lead it for three (let’s be honest, not four) straight years.

But we did say “quarterback scramble,” right? Because that makes the answer pretty clear, and it’s the guy we haven’t mentioned yet: Andrew Hendrix.

Let’s take that phrase and take it one word at a time.

“Quarterback.” Notice that it doesn’t say “glorified running back.” The Irish need a true gunslinger in the backfield, not a Denard Robinson-style running back who occasionally heaves the ball downfield hoping to get lucky against single coverage. That rules out Golson, as exciting as he is. While there’s room for Golson as a part of special packages and as a change of pace, he simply doesn’t have the accuracy to run Kelly’s offense on a consistent basis.

To be a truly effective quarterback, the starter will need a comprehensive and comfortable grasp of the playbook and all of the pre- and post-snap reads he could possibly be asked to make. By all accounts, Kiel is a smart kid, but asking him to do that in time for the season opener is simply too much.

That leaves Rees and Hendrix, and I suppose the second word makes it a dead giveaway why I don’t think Rees should be at the top of the depth chart. Yes, a Notre Dame quarterback needs to be able to scramble.

When the pocket collapses, the guy looking downfield needs to have the presence – and quickness – to roll out and buy himself some time. Every now and then, he might even need to tuck the ball and run without the entire stadium holding its collective breath.

Again, nothing against Rees, but he just isn’t that guy. When his protection is stellar, he does a passable job. But when he faces any sort of pressure, the play is over. He has to tuck the ball and protect it.

This isn’t just a process-of-elimination decision. Hendrix really is the best choice.

There’s no one who has a quicker release – which translates into more accurate throws. Hendrix is smart and a hard worker, and he’s comfortable enough in a gold helmet to be a leader on the field.

Yes, it’s a quarterback scramble. But it’s not as jumbled up as you might think.

 

Contact Allan Joseph at ajoseph2@nd.edu

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