The mystery surrounding Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly's choice of a starting quarterback for the Fighting Irish season opener on September 1st is about to be solved. But Kelly isn't giving away the ending just yet, no matter how anxious Notre Dame fans, and alumni like me, remain.
Notre Dame will have a first-time starter when the Irish face Navy in Dublin, Ireland in the first Game of the season, no matter who Kelly picks. Tommy Rees, who started 16 of the last 17 ND games, has been suspended for the season opener after pleading guilty following his arrest during an off-campus run-in with police. So Kelly is trying to decide whether he will go with junior Andrew Hendrix or sophomore Everett Golson.
"I think we're getting closer," Kelly said on August 16, as Notre Dame wound down its second full week of fall practice
By Kelly's own admission, time is running out. On August 20, the Irish begin to specifically prepare for the Navy game, and the 50-50 split of practice snaps for Hendrix and Golson will come to an end. At that point, the front-runner for the starting job will start to get the bulk of the reps with the first-team offense.
"Probably Monday we sit down and talk about how the reps are going to be distributed," Kelly predicted. "It's not going to be a 50-50 proposition. But there's still so much learning, so it wouldn't be as cut and dry as say, here's my No. 1. The door will still be open for growth during that week, but we'll start to separate the reps a little bit."
Careful observers at Notre Dame practices give the early edge to Golson. Though he has never taken a single snap in a college football game, he was impressive in the Notre Dame spring game, got the first reps of the fall with the first-team offense, and is physically best suited for Kelly's preferred spread offense. Even Hendrix, who has never started but threw 37 passes in limited action for Notre Dame last season, has been impressed.
"He can throw it a country mile and he's starting to understand defenses more," said Hendrix of his rival for the starting job.
As a redshirt last season, Golson has four seasons of eligibility remaining. A commitment to him at the start of this season could set the course for Notre Dame's offense for several years. It would also allow Kelly to transition to more of the spread offense philosophy that was so successful for him before he came to Notre Dame.
It looks like Notre Dame fans will have a glimpse of the future very soon.
Rick Blaine, an award-winning broadcaster and columnist, holds two degrees from Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @RickBlaineCT.