Notre Dame Quarterback. Those three little words carry a lot of weight. It's one of the most pressure packed jobs in the country. Gunner Kiel? Everett Golson? Andrew Hendrix? Can't be Tommy Rees again, can it? Brian Kelly has a big decision to make moving forward and he was hoping the Blue-Gold game would provide a little clarity.
Well... it did and it didn't. In my opinion, Golson looked the best by far going 11 of 15 for 120 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. I was most impressed with how incredibly poised and patient he was in the pocket as I didn't see that coming at all. He has a cannon of an arm and limited mistakes quite well. His lone turnover came off of a broken play when the snap hit Riddick as he was motioning across the formation. Moving on, my problem with Rees was the same problem I had with him last year, you know what you are going to get. You'll get a few flashes, some crippling turnovers and a lot of bad reads. Brian Kelly has
to move past Rees and start building for the future but we'll see how it plays out. Hendrix looked solid at times and confused at others. His lone touchdown pass came off of a busted coverage. Yes, I would rather have Hendrix than Rees, but I wouldn't be "comfortable" with him by any stretch of the imagination. The pass that Ishaq Williams intercepted was a perfect example of his inability to read zones. Finally, we get to highly touted freshman Gunner Kiel. Kiel throws a beautiful ball, he's physically imposing and is more mobile than he gets credit for. He got the second half treatment, giving me further evidence that Kelly will decide to redshirt him this season.
What would I
do? That's a far different question than what I think Kelly will do. I expect Kelly to name Golson the starter with Rees as the backup. However, if a situation arose that resulted in Golson missing significant time, look for Hendrix to take over the reins. That leaves Kiel to receive a redshirt. As for me, I would play it different. Kiel is the future. Yes, if you don't start Golson, you run a significant risk of losing him. At this point, Kelly needs to roll the dice. The 2012 schedule is brutal and a serious BCS run will need to be made the following season. I would start Kiel from day one and let him learn. Rees would serve as the immediate backup and Hendrix as the true backup, assuming Golson chooses to play elsewhere. This really would hurt as I love Golson's package and have been campaigning for him to play since the day he arrived on campus. It leaves me extremely torn but if I were to choose between Golson or Kiel, I would lean towards Kiel.
Don't get the wrong idea though, I am fine with Golson starting. As I tweeted on Saturday, if there were a game tomorrow, I would be most comfortable with Golson running the show. He is a special talent and if he plays the entire season he could put up some really special numbers. However, if that were to happen it would bring me back to my original question regarding Kiel... if not now, when?
Some other thoughts from Saturday...
- There's going to be plenty of depth at running back. Obviously, Cierre Wood will start and if he were in a situation where he received 25 to 30 carries a game he would make a run at the Heisman. That won't be the case as Theo Riddick is going to see more time in the backfield along with Amir Carlisle and George Atkinson III. Riddick looked very good on Saturday. He's put on about 20 pounds of muscle and it didn't seem to take anything away from his quickness. Look for Kelly to move Riddick all over the field and get him the ball in multiple ways. I was extremely
impressed with George Atkinson III. Did he give anyone else Ryan Grant flashbacks? Good sized kid, able to take contact and a smooth runner. I said this last year, you have to find a way to get the ball in his hands. He's a home run threat every time the ball finds him.
- Athletes! When was the last time Notre Dame had such a huge stable of versatile athletes? Theo Riddick, Cierre Wood, Amir Carlisle, George Atkinson III, DaVaris Daniels, Davonte Neal... all top of the line athletes that can bust a huge play at any given time. To compete with the big boys, the field needs to be full of athletic playmakers and the Irish will be able to do that next season.
- The Irish offensive line looked fantastic and will only improve once Cave is fully healthy and ready to anchor the line again. They got great initial pushes most of the day and really gave the backs plenty of room to operate.
- The wide receiver situation went about how I expected it to. TJ Jones didn't play much as he's been guaranteed a starting spot. I've stated this before, he's a fantastic possession receiver but won't break as many big plays as Floyd had in years past. Davaris Daniels, however, is more than capable of racking up big gains. We saw a couple of big plays where his superb hands came into play and I expect to see more of that during the season. He is one of my breakout candidates for 2012 and I feel even better about that now. Robby Toma will also get his fair share of catches as he'll be used in the slot similar to how New England uses Wes Welker. He will allow Eifert and Daniels to clear space before settling into holes in the zone and picking up chunks after the catch.
- As for the defense, a couple players in the secondary stood out to me. First of all, Jamoris Slaughter is a real special talent and will be huge to the defense this season. He can play some strong side linebacker, both safety positions and will probably see time at corner as well. Speaking of corners, Bennett Jackson didn't play in the game, which was disappointing. I've heard great things about Jackson this spring and I would be surprised if he didn't start at cornerback this fall. Another player that stood out to me was Lo Wood. I've praised Wood for his footwork and hands in the past and he showed more of that on Saturday. He also has a habit of looking for the ball when it's in the air allowing him to make plays on the jump balls we so often see in the college game, which is very nice to see from an Irish cornerback.
- Finally, the front seven lived up to the hype even without Aaron Lynch. Stephon Tuitt, a behemoth of a man, looked dominant at times as did Louis Nix III. Both of them are extremely strong and will demand plenty of double teams this fall. Ishaq Williams also looked good at outside linebacker and I still expect him to start this season. He's ultra-athletic for a linebacker and continues to improve in pass coverage, making it easier for the Irish coaching staff to keep him on the field for all three downs. His biggest flaw at this point is actually his tackling. He's a big hitter but the problem is that he's well aware of that fact, sometimes opting for the bone-crushing hit rather than wrapping up. This is more of a habit problem than anything and will be remedied with more field time. The last member of the front seven I want to touch on is Kendall Moore. I continue to be very impressed by his instincts and ability to get off of blocks. If he can continue to trim down and add speed, explosiveness and quickness to his repertoire, he could be a force to be reckoned with. I continue to lobby for him to see more of the field.
Well, that's it for me. What did everyone else think? Who stood out to you that I didn't mention? Did anyone disappoint you? Let me know in the comments section or you can find me on Twitter at the link below.
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