Notre Dame’s Quarterback Depth Still Strong

Photo: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Photo: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Worried about Notre Dame’s depth at quarterback following the departure of incumbent starter Everett Golson?  Don’t be.  Even with Golson deciding to transfer and in essence conceding the starting quarterback derby to Malik Zaire, Notre Dame still remains deep and talented at the most crucial position on any football team thanks to the recruiting of the Irish staff the last few years.

When news broke of Golson transferring one of the immediate concerns that popped up among Notre Dame fans was all of the snaps that Golson took away from Deshone Kizer this spring before ultimately transferring.  While those concerns are certainly valid considering Kizer has no collegiate experience, Notre Dame entered the 2014 season with a backup quarterback who had never taken a collegiate snap and in 2012, they started the season with a starter who had never taken a snap before.

So, going into a season with a backup and/or starter with limited experience isn’t new for Notre Dame and hasn’t prevented the Irish from having success in the past.

From top to bottom though, the depth chart at quarterback is still very strong for Notre Dame.  With Zaire as the starter, Kizer the backup, and incoming freshman Brandon Wimbush third – at least to start fall camp – Notre Dame’s depth chart is full of similar style quarterbacks all of whom were rated as 4-star quarterbacks out of high school.

No one can argue that Notre Dame is not in worse shape at quarterback without Golson since at worst the Irish would have entered 2015 with one of the most experienced and talented backups in all of college football.  At the same time, Notre Dame is still in good shape at the position in 2015 and beyond.

Golson’s departure will certainly impact the Irish offense in 2015, but it won’t derail it either by any means.  With Zaire, Kizer, and Wimbush Notre Dame will be short on experience this season, but not short on talent.

Notre Dame will likely run the ball more with an inexperienced quarterback much like they did in 2012, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Some would argue that the Irish relied too heavily on the pass with an experienced Golson in 2014 and an experienced Tommy Rees in 2013 and while those offenses put up points, they also turned the ball over far too often.

The lack of experience at quarterback will make the job of offensive coordinator Mike Sanford much more difficult this summer since he’s going to need to prepare a backup whose never taken a snap on the collegiate level and a starter who has attempted just 35 career passes.  Fundamentals – something Sanford focused on with Zaire and Golson in the Spring – will again need to be the focus of most of his coaching in fall camp.

With the starting quarterback derby decided, the backup quarterback race will be interesting to watch.  Deshone Kizer has a head start on Brandon Wimbush, but the competition between Golson and Zaire this spring limited his reps to the point that his lead isn’t insurmountable.  Wimbush comes to Notre Dame a more polisher passer than either Zaire or Kizer when they reported to Notre Dame and could very well challenge for the backup position.

Prior to Golson’s decision to transfer, Wimbush was a prime candidate for a redshirt season in 2015.  Even he felt that would was in the cards according to the South Bend Tribune.

“I wanted to redshirt,” Wimbush said. “I had the mindset of coming in and redshirting and being able to learn and get acclimated for a year. With this, my mind changed immediately. My mindset really did change quickly as soon as I heard it.”

A redshirt season might not be possible for Wimbush now depending on how things shake out.  That is one component of the Golson transfer that does hurt Notre Dame’s depth moving forward.  In an ideal world, Notre Dame would have entered the 2016 season with four years of eligibility for Wimbush and three for Kizer to stagger their quarterbacks eligibility.

Because of the likelihood of Wimbush being forced into action, Golson’s departure could alter Notre Dame’s recruiting plans this year at the quarterback position.  Had Golson stayed, Wimbush would have almost certainly redshirted which could have allowed Notre Dame to pass on a quarterback if they are unable to land an elite signal caller in this recruiting cycle.  Now the Irish staff is almost forced to add one given Kizer and Wimbush could both enter 2016 with only three years a piece left.  Such situations can lead to the need to transfers down the line.

Aside from the potential recruiting implications – which could be minor as it appeared Notre Dame was set on adding a quarterback in the class of 2016 regardless – Golson’s departure, while without question disappointing, shouldn’t greatly impact Notre Dame’s chances of a playoff run in 2015 and beyond.  It’s very likely that Notre Dame’s best chance at a playoff run in 2015 was if the Everett Golson from the first seven games of 2014 won the starting quarterback position, but without him on the Irish roster this fall, Notre Dame can still make a playoff run and still features an enviable depth chart at quarterback.

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  1. I have confidence in Zaire. I believe Wimbush is as ready to play as any other Freshman QB, too bad he couldn’t enroll early. But at the end of the day, it is a little ironic that “our” two best QBs Kiel and Golson are playing for someone else. We can push “next man in” to the brink sometimes.

  2. Well, let’s just be honest here that the QB position hasn’t been all that great with the starters,with and without experience, in Kelly’s tenure. EG’s leaving certainly affects experience in the rotation but Kelly’s decision to not devote more playing time to backups in games is not new either (and certainly commented on in this blog site) so “lack of experience” bears some responsibility on the coach. As with any new starter you only can give them playing time to get that experience. As much as I hate the OSU Suckeyes, I don’t think many people expected a.backup to become a potential heisman candidate until injury and a 3rd stringer w/o much experience lead them in wins to a NC. I think MZ will turn out to be a solid QB for this team.

    Go Irish

  3. I’m not ready to panic. I think Zaire is ready to runt he offense. He needs more experience, yes, but thus far he appears comfortable in the role, which is hugely important. Everyone makes mistakes and it will be how he responds that determine his future. EG’s problem was he would make a mistake, then seemed to compound it, like something got in his head. It’s important when Zaire makes a mistake, to learn from it, let it go and get back to work.

    I wouldn’t rule out Winbush redshirting. I wouldn’t give up on Kizer just yet as the backup. He needs work, yes, but it’s laughable that so many people are ready to throw him under the bus. Work with the kid, a lot of the coaches on the staff have good records of developing players. BK has not gone 3 deep in QB’s thus far at ND so there’s no reason to think he would have to this year at this early juncture. I think only if Kizer truly is a bust in the end (or catastrophic injuries to both Zaire and Kizer) would he burn Winbush’s red shirt.

  4. Kizer isn’t close to being ready to start and play if something happens to Malik. The true freshman coming in was planning on red shirting this season. I would rather the true freshman play over Kizer. Kizer just looked lost this spring. I don’t think he will beat out Winbush.

  5. 2012 christ saved golson how many times ? Let’s not forget last season how many interceptions did golson have ? Golson can not take pressure.

  6. Something that we might need to consider. Since Wimbush planned on redshirting who has his own timetable which includes having an extra year to mature, get acclimated to college, and fewer years with an established QB ahead of him. What is he decides not to come to ND because he is not guaranteed a redshirt now and goes elsewhere? Just a thought.

  7. You continue analyze his DNA and report back.

    The rest of us will work off his on field performance, …. which, after only one official start, is limited at best.

    BK won’t let go. Most likely because he’s the guy in charge.
    Stanford will coach. Because that’s what he was hired for and is paid to do.

  8. Zaire will be fine. Its just in his DNA. There is no question the depth took a hit. BK will never let
    go of being the offensive coordinator with his ego. Sanford will be the QB coach.

  9. There is talent in Zaire, and potential with the backups, but a serious lack of experience all around. That should not be mistaken for depth. If Zaire gets hurt it will cost us in the win column.

  10. Losing Golson was a big hit to the QB position. To argue otherwise, is just plain silly. Hopefully, Kizer and Wimbush will work out as a backup but to take the experience of Golson away could be a major setback. We don’t even know how Zaire is going to play. It’s not like he has experience either.

  11. “The lack of experience at quarterback will make the job of offensive coordinator Mike Sanford much more difficult this summer since he’s going to need to prepare a backup whose never taken a snap on the collegiate level and a starter who has attempted just 35 career passes.”

    Notre Dame should always play two QB’s right out the gate. Especially in the soft games which make the integration process go much more smoothly. One glance at Ohio State last year proves this at least to some extent.

  12. Frank,

    Sorry but I completely disagree. Did you see Kizer throw in the Blue/Gold game? It was UGLY and that is being nice. I don’t care if he hasn’t gotten many reps or whatever, I was not convinced he was ready at all. Wimbush coming into the college game as a true freshman is always a difficult transition. He does seem to have a great skill set but this is big boy ball now. It will take him some to get acclimated to the college game.

    Our depth at QB really took a hit. Lets just be honest about it…

  13. “Offensive coordinator Mike Sanford”?

    What evidence do we have of this? Unfortunately, Kelly has made him a glorified QB coach.

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