DeShone Kizer and Notre Dame’s Quarterback Depth

Everett Golson - Notre Dame Quarterback Depth
Notre Dame’s future quarterback depth hinges on the return of Everett Golson now that the Irish have secured a commitment from 2014 QB DeShone Kizer. (Photo: Steve Mitchell / USA TODAY Sports)

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.

Malik Zaire will have at least three years of eligibility left entering the 2014 season for Notre Dame. (Photo: Matt Cashore / USA TODAY Sports)

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.

Notre Dame - 2010 Quarterbacks
Brian Kelly did not inherit much depth at quarterback when he arrived at Notre Dame in 2010. (Photo: Robin Alam / IconSMI)

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.


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  1. Espn reported that EG may play Junior College ball. If this happens does he lose a year of eligibility and would he def be outta ND?

    1. Someone else probably knows more about this than I do, but as I understand it, he’s losing the year either way. If he goes to a JC, then he’s playing his “redshirt Sophomore” (actually Junior) season at the JC. Then, when he comes back, it will be his “redshirt Junior” season. If he sits on his butt in South Bend and doesn’t play for anybody, he still loses that year because it’s about your clock, which starts your Freshman year and goes for four seasons across five years.

      He already sat out a year and doesn’t have a medical hardship, so there isn’t any extra extension to his eligibility that I’m aware of. He should still be able to return from a JC as far as I know, but he is losing that year of eligibility unless there’s some other exemption that I’ve never heard of. But if he can stay sharp at a JC and get his head back in the right place, more power to him.

      1. Correct, he loses the year o matter what. The clock already started on his eligibility.

    2. Chi-town, If he plays at a JC it will count and he would then have two years left at ND. I hope he plays somewhere that runs a similar system so he can continue to learn.

  2. New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick may convert Tim Tebow into high caliber NFL QB, ultimately, much as coach Vince Lombardi converted Alabama Crimson QB Bart Starr who was reputed to have been a little slow to grasp leadership skills initially. The point I seek to illuminate is “Molding developing QB talent whose finished product is a polished mature leader is paramount to ND’S future strength as we move forward.”

    The O line is critical however the ‘inner workings’ of a QB are a Joe Montana.

  3. What will help the development of the quarterbacks is the strength of the offensive line. The ’13 and ’14 offensive line classes appear to be very strong. That bodes well for the young QBs, but also the run game. In the future ND looks like a team that will have a strong running game.

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