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Football: QB battle continues to heat up

Allan Joseph | Monday, March 28, 2011

If there was one conclusion to be made from Saturday’s practice inside the Loftus Sports Center, it was that the quarterback competition is far from settled. Junior Dayne Crist, freshmen Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix and early enrollee Everett Golson all participated equally in quarterback drills — just as Irish coach Brian Kelly drew it up.

“I’ve never scripted this way before. I’m scripting for four quarterbacks,” Kelly said. “It’s been pretty good overall. I like the four quarterbacks that we have. I wanted to work with four. We’re working with four, and I think we’re getting better every day.”

Crist, the five-star recruit with the most experience, understands and appreciates his role — a role that is not well-defined.

“You don’t come to college given things. We’ve all talked about it as a quarterback group,” Crist said. “We’re all going to push each other and make each other better. At the end of the day, it’s our team, and it’s not about one person.”

Rees echoed Crist’s sentiments.

“We understand that the best player’s going to play,” Rees said. “We want what’s best for the team, so we support each other 100 percent.”

Crist seemed to have the early advantage during practice, wearing the “helmet cam,” taking snaps first, and generally looking the most confident, collected and mistake-free. Rees was also mistake-free, but didn’t attempt any big plays, while Hendrix was inconsistent. It was Golson, however, who showed flashes of brilliance followed by freshman mistakes.

Golson made the play of the day during seven-on-seven drills, firing a 35-yard fade pass down the opposite sideline into his receiver’s hands and drawing applause from the 1,000 coaches gathered for the Notre Dame coaching clinic. On his very next snap, however, Golson misread the defense and threw an interception that was nowhere close to his intended receiver.

Rees said that despite his youth, he already sees himself as a mentor to the younger gunslingers.

“They come to me like I’ve been here a while, but it’s only my second spring,” he said. “It’s been a lot of fun working with those guys.”

Kelly’s second year of spring practice had a different feel, both to players and to the coach himself.

“We had to move so quickly in year one that we didn’t have the time to do the things we’re doing,” Kelly said. “We’re drilling a lot deeper, we’re spending a lot more time with our players. That’s where we are. It’s the natural progression of being in year two.”

“It’s really like night and day,” Crist said. “It’s a great positive seeing we’ve come that far in this period of time and this spring it’s about taking it to the next level.”

Nowhere was the squad’s enthusiasm more evident than in the practice-ending three-on-three drills, which feautred a game-like level of intensity.

“I want tough guys on the field, gentlemen off the field,” Kelly said. “We want toughness. We want guys that want to compete. We saw that today. We know where that line is. There weren’t guys taking their helmets off and throwing them at each other. Our guys know what that edge is and they’ve got to carry a little bit of edge when they play.”

The practice was not entirely positive, however. Sophomore running back Cameron Roberson went down with what appeared to be a knee injury early in practice and had to be carted off the field.

“We didn’t like the way it looked, so they’re going to have to send him for an MRI,” Kelly said. “I never like hearing that news. We’ll know something probably on Monday.”

Roberson’s injury leaves the Irish with only two scholarship running backs, junior Cierre Wood and senior Jonas Gray.

Former Florida coach Urban Meyer was also present at practice as part of the coaching clinic. In an encouraging sign for the defensive line, Kelly said Meyer was impressed by some of the younger members of the defensive front.

“[Meyer]’s looking back going, ‘Boy, we would have loved to have had those guys [freshman Louis Nix and early enrollees Aaron Lynch and Ishaq Williams] at Florida,'” Kelly said. “That’s a good sign when you have those kinds of guys out on the field.”