After weeks and weeks of negative news after negative news, Notre Dame fans were treated to some good news on Tuesday when Toledo native and 4-star dual threat quarterback DeShone Kizer committed to Notre Dame. The news was a welcomed change in an off-season that seemingly has been an endless stream of bad news.
More important than just being a breathe of fresh air, however, Kizer’s commitment could finally provide some stability to a quarterback depth chart that has been a roller coaster ride since Brian Kelly arrived in December of 2009.
Heading into next season, Notre Dame’s quarterback depth is still a bit of a mystery. The Irish could have as few as two two quarterbacks on the roster as things stand today or as many as four depending on whether or not Everett Golson is able to re-enroll for the spring semester and whether or not Andrew Hendrix decides to return for a 5th year.
Assuming both Golson and Hendrix appear, here is how Notre Dame’s quarterback depth chart would break down eligibility wise:
- Final Year – Andrew Hendrix
- 2 Years Remaining – Everett Golson
- 3-4 Years Remaining – Malik Zaire
- 4-5 Years Remaining – DeShone Kizer
Notre Dame’s future quarterback depth hinges on Everett Golson’s return
Even if Hendrix is not back in 2014, the depth at quarterback for the Irish really hinges on what happens with Golson. If Golson is not able to return in January for whatever reason, then Brian Kelly will almost certainly try to persuade Hendrix to come back for another season and would also likely look to add a second quarterback to this year’s class – most likely a developmental quarterback who could and would be open to potentially playing another position at some point.
If Golson does return, then Notre Dame’s depth at quarterback will finally start to look pretty good. The Irish would have Golson back to compete with Zaire for the starting role in 2014 who himself will have three or four years of eligibility remaining depending on whether or not he sees the field this year.
In that scenario, DeShone Kizer would be able to come in and gradually adjust to the college game, potentially redshirting as a true freshman like Golson did in 2011. Of course the door would also be open for Kizer to come in and potentially compete for the starting gig as well if he were ready for the role.
Notre Dame may finally have depth at quarterback in 2014
With Kizer on board, assuming Golson returns of course, Notre Dame will for the first time since Brian Kelly arrived have three very similarly skilled quarterbacks. Granted, all three will have their strengths and weaknesses and will by no means be carbon copies of either other, but they also won’t be polar opposities of each other the way Tommy Rees and Everett Golson were last year. They won’t be the hodge-podge of skillsets Notre Dame will feature at the position this year.
That should always be the case with your quarterback depth, but given the quarterback situation that Brian Kelly and this staff inherited on top of some early struggles recruiting the position, 2014 looks like it will be the first time they will have a complete set of quarterbacks that can all essentially run the same offense.
Brian Kelly has said since last year that the offense is the offense and that he wouldn’t be changing it for any of the Notre Dame quarterbacks, but let’s be honest; despite my own belief that Tommy Rees can be an effective quarterback for Notre Dame this year, Rees physically can’t run all of the plays that Everett Golson could have or that Malik Zaire could potentially run this year.
Kizer’s commitment on Tuesday was a huge pick-up for Notre Dame for a number of reasons. Notre Dame needed some positive news after the rough off-season they have been experiencing, Notre Dame really needed to pick up an elite quarterback in this class, and maybe most importantly, the quarterback situation may actually finally be stabilized for Notre Dame under Brian Kelly by year five.
Brian Kelly inherited a mess at quarterback at Notre Dame
Within days of Brian Kelly being hired by Notre Dame, Jimmy Clausen announced his decision to leave after his junior year for the NFL. That left Kelly with a quarterback rotation featuring a 5-star recruit coming off a major knee surgery (Dayne Crist), three incoming freshman recruits – none of which were considered elite recruits – (Tommy Rees, Andrew Hendrix, and Luke Massa), and a sophomore who didn’t even start at quarterback in high school (Nate Montana).
That mess of a quarterback situation hasn’t exactly cleared up just yet either. In 2011 Notre Dame still had Crist, Rees, and Hendrix; but Crist struggled after another major knee injury in 2010, Hendrix showed more promise as a runner than passer, and Rees had a hard time protecting the football.
Things looked better for Notre Dame in 2012 when Everett Golson emerged as the starter in training camp and then grew into the position after some early struggles. Heading into this year, Golson had a stranglehold on the position and there was some debate as to whether or not he would develop enough over the next two seasons to leave after the 2014 despite maintaining a year of eligibility for 2015. Golson’s dismissal obviously threw all of that talk out the window though.
As we have seen, a lot can change between now and next year, but if Golson is able to get his affairs in order and returns to campus in the winter and Kizer does indeed enroll with Notre Dame – the Eddie Vanderdoes saga has taught us that that is never a given – Notre Dame will have a full depth chart of quarterbacks with varying levels of eligibility for 2014. That luxury is something that Notre Dame hasn’t had under Kelly or Weis or Willingham or Davie for that matter.
It’s been a long time since Notre Dame has had a full quarterback depth chart, but if things finally go as planned for Kelly at quarterback that could finally change in 2014. Of course, if things go as planned for Kelly at quarterback, that’d be the first time anything went completely as planned for him since arriving too.