Notre Dame’s Quarterback Future at Crossroads after Barnett Decommit

The quarterback position has been tenuous at best in South Bend since head coach Brian Kelly’s arrival over four years ago.

Three days before being announced as Notre Dame’s new head coach, prolific passer Jimmy Clausen opted to forego his final year of eligibility to head for the professional ranks, leaving the Fighting Irish with a talented but inexperienced quarterback in Dayne Crist.  Crist would tear his ACL for the second time in October of 2010 – the first occurrence happening in 2009 in mop-up duty against Washington State – his first season as starter, forcing Notre Dame into the precarious position of having to start true freshman Tommy Rees in his stead.  Crist would get the starting nod once again in 2011 only to be demoted behind Rees by the second game of the season, a transition that would ultimately result in Crist transferring to Kansas to be united with former head coach, Charlie Weis.

Just when it appeared stability had arrived at the position with the emergence of Everett Golson and the signing of #1 quarterback recruit for the Class of 2012, Gunner Kiel, the bad breaks resurfaced, first with Kiel transferring to Cincinnati, and several months later when Golson was suspended for the season due to academic reasons.

Despite the innumerable setbacks over the years, slowly, the tide had begun to turn.  Golson has been reinstated and will be the likely starter for the Fighting Irish this fall.  Redshirt freshman Malik Zaire flashed his potential for the Notre Dame faithful at this year’s spring game, offering glimpses of how high his ceiling reaches.  And with the recent arrival of DeShone Kizer Notre Dame now possesses a quarterback depth chart with dual-threat capability at every level.  The Fighting Irish were even poised to sign their highest rated quarterback prospect of the Kelly era with the commitment of blue-chip signal caller, Blake Barnett.

And then the bad breaks resurfaced for a third time.

The de-commitment of Blake Barnett, and his subsequent commitment to Alabama, left Notre Dame in a tough position.  Brian Kelly and staff immediately implemented a plan of action and offered three other Class of 2015 quarterback prospects in Travis Waller, Deondre Francis, and Jarrett Stidham, though the damage had already been done.  Francis briefly considered Notre Dame’s offer but ultimately dropped them from consideration due to a lack of relationship, something the Fighting Irish were unable to develop while Barnett was still in the fold.

Travis Waller expressed heavy initial interest in the Irish and was considered the most likely recruit to take Barnett’s place in the commitment column, though the perpetual quarterback carousel has shifted away from Notre Dame’s favor.  Waller recently received an offer from the Oregon Ducks, an offer he coveted and accepted on July 1st

The issues that have plagued Notre Dame at the quarterback position have left the program at a crossroads.  Should Notre Dame reevaluate its options and offer a new slate of Class of 2015 quarterbacks or hold back and wait for an elite prospect from the 2016 ranks (Kelly and staff have already made extensive in-roads with the likes of Jacob Eason, a quarterback prospect who may end up as the #1 quarterback in his class)?

Each option brings unique problems.  Waiting until the Class of 2016 to sign a quarterback could create space between Notre Dame’s quarterbacks.  By the time a 2016 signee arrived to campus, Golson will have graduated and Zaire will have two years of eligibility remaining, with DeShone Kizer – likely to redshirt – having three years remaining.  However, skipping a quarterback in 2015 could also come with a cautionary tale.

If Everett Golson lives up to the expectations that have been placed upon him since his elite performance against Alabama in the BCS National Championship game, the possibility exists Golson may forego his final year of eligibility at Notre Dame and head for the pro ranks.  Doing so without a quarterback signed for the Class of 2015 would leave Notre Dame with only two scholarship quarterbacks for the fall of 2015 in Malik Zaire and an inexperienced DeShone Kizer, a less than ideal situation given Kelly’s history of needing two quarterbacks throughout a season.

The best solution may be one that’s least discussed: aggressively pursuing current Texas Tech quarterback pledge, Jarrett Stidham.  Stidham, a Class of 2015 Texas native tabbed by Rivals as the #1 dual-threat quarterback in his class, was recently offered by Notre Dame, and there has been speculation that Stidham may be open to other programs.  Kelly and staff should fight to get Stidham on campus for a visit, and failing that, should close shop and begin to focus solely on Class of 2016 prospects.

Whatever strategy Notre Dame’s coaching staff decides to take could have major ramifications moving forward.

Scott Janssen is a blogger for the Huffington Post and has authored several nationally-featured articles, including an appearance on MSNBC as a sports contributor.  He talks football 24 hours a day, much to chagrin of his fiancée.  Scott can be reached at

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  1. So I guess no one here is a professional risk manager?

    It would be nearly reckless and approaching madness to not take a QB recruit in this class. Even if it is a Rees or a Hendrix. Quarterbacks tend to surprise.

    Trust me, if this Spring, Golson suddenly bolted for the NFL (right, you saw Niklas’ and Atkinson’s departure coming, correct?) and Kizer decided to transfer to Toledo we would be left with Zaire, Malik, not the nation that encompassed Kinshasha.

    Whether you THINK or GUESS that Golson will stay and that Kizer will also is not relevant to the risk management issue.

    The peasants with pitchforks, and justification, would be storming the ramparts to get at Kelly, and just for spits and giggles, Matt LaFleur.

    Hope is not a strategy, neither is wishing. The CEO is responsible for ensuring that the team is not placed in fatal peril.

    1. You make a good point. Never really thought of comparing Golson suddenly leaving to how Niklas or Atkinson left at the end of last season. Just don’t see him being an NFL QB after this season.

      ND hasn’t had that may QB surprises recently. Not good surprises at least. I started following them in 1989 and McDougal and maybe Jarious Jackson come to mind.

      Point well taken though. I never would have thought we’d have a year like last year when Golson gets suspended and Gunner bolts to Cincy.

  2. “Head Coach Nick Saban enjoys the company of infamous alum Paul Bryant’s son at Tuscaloosa in what could be loosely called ‘an advisory capacity’ if called upon to advise.” why cant we put ex nd stars on the payroll as advisors/recruiters” what is the rule? we cannot afford to lose so many 4 5 stars. you gotta think different-steve jobs. gggggggggggg

    1. For the love of god bj stop with this. There are limits to the number of off campus recruiters an institution may have. There are also limits to in person contacts and telephone calls made to recruits. About the only thing not really regulated are texts.

      Would you really want some ex player taking up the only in person or phone contact when they really know nothing about what the staff is doing. I know you love the past but how many of these kids even know x great players of ND. It’s been a long time.

      Furthermore, how do you even know they’d want to do it.

      For the last time, there are rules to recruiting. How many, when, where and why are all covered. I encourage you to get the NCAA manual on recruiting. It will be a good read for you and perhaps open your eyes.

      1. These “rules-t0-recruiting” too which you refer are not adhered to or barely adhered to. Hilliard is an excellent example of a university who refuses to play by the “rules” or are you going to take issue with this also?

  3. lets see, we loss cornell, hilliard, waller, barnett and sykes these last two weeks.

    somebody should send kelly, tom hopkins, how to master the art of selling,

    but we have pretty under armour cleets and maybe a new jumbotron


    1. Just sent it to him, good suggestion. I also included a book of Lombardi quotes as we’ll.

  4. Regarding the question 2015 or 2016? It is probable that 2016 is the answer which work in favor of any organization who might not wish Notre Dame well or the Roman Catholic Church.
    (I’m laying the message on a little thick here)

  5. “Should Notre Dame reevaluate its options and offer a new slate of Class of 2015 quarterbacks or hold back and wait for an elite prospect from the 2016 ranks (Kelly and staff have already made extensive in-roads with the likes of Jacob Eason, a quarterback prospect who may end up as the #1 quarterback in his class)?”

    Head Coach Nick Saban enjoys the company of infamous alum Paul Bryant’s son at Tuscaloosa in what could be loosely called ‘an advisory capacity’ if called upon to advise.

    Paul “bear” Bryant was well known as a negative recruiter in his tenure in Alabama. This true most especially if the university in question had a winning record versus Alabama’s Crimson (the original mascot name)…just a thought.

    1. Trivia question just for fun, that every ND fan should know (good bar question to earn a couple of drinks): there were only two college teams Bear Bryant ever coached against but never beat.

      Who were they?

      I’ll give you the obvious one: ND

      1. The answer is Bama but your question is flawed. It should read of teams that he coached against at least twice. Their are others he lost to one time.

  6. “Gunner Kiel, the bad breaks resurfaced, first with Kiel transferring to Cincinnati,”

    Gunner Kiel left starting QB positions at LSU + ND to ultimately land at Cincinnati.

  7. This is like crying over which milk to spill…Golson can handle the next 2 years with no issues. If he has an injury we have a guy name Zaire to step up. If the world collapses and we have 2 QB’s go down in one year we still have capable Kizer to run the offense. If you think he is worse than in any way shape or form than Tommy Rees then you should consider this a tenuous situation. If they can add Stidham then we have our coffers full, if they cannot then we have one year where things get hairy…IF the #1 and #2 Qbs go down.

    I am not betting that will happen, ND without a decent QB seems like a suckers bet….

  8. Golson isn’t going to turn PRO after this season. He may not even be our starter by the end of the year, although I think he will be. You like to get a QB in every class, but I would rather skip 2015 and focus on 2016 before I’d bring another Tommy Rees into the fold in 2015. Having a guy stuck at the bottom of a depth chart that includes Golson, Zaire, and Kizer isn’t really helping us at all. Bring in a top competitor or don’t worry about bringing in a guy.

    Overall, this will be a solid class. Not OSU or Alabama solid, but enough guys coming in that will fill some gaps.

  9. Zaire was a strong four-star and is the same height as Golson.

    In any case, we don’t have to worry about Golson turning pro. First, he has no intention of doing that. He wants to redeem himself and also to graduate from ND. Second, unless he improves a great deal, no pro program would draft him.

  10. Kelly has shown the ability to get QB commits to flip late in the recruiting process. Also, remember that Golson was a 3 star by all recruiting services. This was mostly due to his height. If Kelly gets a serviceable 3 star QB that could bridge the gap if needed.

  11. “…since his elite performance against Alabama in the BCS National Championship game…”

    Whoa! Slow down there. “Elite performances” in blowout loses aren’t a thing.

    1. Elite is probably a stretch but he was one if not the only who didn’t look like the moment was too big for him.

  12. The QB issues have been an on-going nagging area since Kelly’s arrival. You would think this wouldn’t be happening by now. Pursuing Stidham probably not a bad option and if ND can’t persuade him, maybe then concentrate on 2016 outlook.

  13. I would go for Stidham. Having only 2 QB’s would be very risky for the program.

    Go IRISH,

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