SOUTH BEND — There was no grand announcement Thursday about who Notre Dame’s next starting quarterback will eventually be — just a tiny hint wrapped inside some staggering numbers and a large bubble of frustration that Irish football coach Brian Kelly handled rather deftly.
“You've asked me this question each week,” Kelly said with a smile when pressed by a TV reporter about his timetable for the public revelation — again. “ How do you want me to answer it this
If you read between the lines, he did it creatively and covertly.
Kelly, when asked if he’d still characterize sophomore Everett Golson as “a heart attack,” as the coach did following a pulsating/hair-pulling Blue-Gold Game performance, Kelly’s response contained this nugget:
In 126 throwing opportunities for Golson in the 15 practice sessions to date of August training camp, the man who began last spring most likely as option No. 4 in a four-quarterback race has thrown one interception.
“You build trust,” Kelly said. “You don't just give it, you build trust.
“So going from that phrase that I used in the spring to where we are today ... we had to really load a lot of work on his plate. And he's exhibited that trust in the way he's handled himself in camp.”
Golson took most of the practice snaps at QB Thursday morning in team periods during the one-hour media viewing window. Junior Andrew Hendrix took roughly 30 percent and mostly with the second-teamers. Freshman Gunner Kiel has clearly separated as the No. 3 option for now — specifically for the Sept. 1 season opener with Navy.
Junior Tommy Rees, with 16 starts on his résumé but suspended for the opener, still only gets work in individual drills with virtually no reps this month in team periods.
Far from an absolute, but certainly moving in that direction is the notion that the 14th starting quarterback at ND of the post-Lou Holtz Era won’t likely be part of a tag team.
“I've played two quarterbacks (in a game, in the past), only because I've had to play two quarterbacks,” Kelly said. “I don't think I want to play two quarterbacks. I'd rather have one guy make himself known to everybody that he's the starter. Always love to have a No. 2 that can go and win for you. We still want to be with a singular quarterback.”
In the line of fire
The brace wrapped around backup offensive tackle Tate Nichols’ knee Thursday in practice and his spectator status aren’t reason for alarm — but it’s getting close.
Nichols’ patella subluxation, a recurrence of an old injury, has thinned the tackle corps to starters Zack Martin and Christian Lombard, with true freshman Ronnie Stanley and converted sophomore guard Nick Martin as the only other healthy options.
Since training camp kicked off, sophomores Brad Carrico and Jordan Prestwood have left the roster — Carrico for a medical hardship when he couldn’t recover from foot surgery, Prestwood for what has been termed “personal reasons.”
Prestwood’s departure is presumed to be academic-related, which would mean a return to ND after this semester is possible. However, the Plant City, Fla., product tweeted Wednesday night on his Twitter account, he’d be visiting Vero Beach, Fla., Thursday. That’s the site of the University of South Florida’s off-campus training camp.
Nichols, meanwhile, could return to practice as soon as two weeks, which would seem to take him out of play for the Navy game on Sept. 1, but perhaps no longer than that.
More personnel matters
The surprise of Thursday’s practice was the surge on the depth chart from sophomore safety Matthias Farley.
The 5-11, 200-pound Charlotte, N.C., product was a soccer star in high school, who showed breathtaking raw skills but pedestrian production once he converted to American football.
He spent last season fermenting at the bottom of the wide receiver depth chart before getting shifted to safety, the position he was actually recruited for, in the spring. Now he could be in line for the third safety job, a semi-starter in ND’s scheme given how much nickel coverage the Irish play.
“Farley has done very, very well,” Kelly said. “I think he's changed the dynamics back there. I know I had spoke that (Dan) McCarthy had that position locked up. Well, it's a battle now. Farley has really been impressive the last 10 days or so.” No. 1 nose guard Kona Schwenke has been sporting a large soft cast on his right hand and wrist the past few practices, but it hasn’t limited his activity in practice, nor should it against Navy.
“It's not even a fracture, it's a crack of the bone, just the fourth knuckle,” Kelly said. “We'll get that down to a very workable, small cast for the game, so we're not concerned about that at all.”
Sophomore Cam McDaniel started his ND career as a running back, then moved to cornerback in the spring. He’s now being cross-trained at both positions.
Tight end Alex Welch recently underwent successful surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
“Had no collateral damage, just the ligament damage, which generally, generally speeds the recovery process for him,” Kelly said. “He's back in that time frame of four to six months.”
A real walk-on
Jude Rhodes got his “welcome to college football” moment Thursday, when the 5-foot-10, 180-pound junior punter got run over during a special teams drill in practice.
Not that he’s easily fazed.
The transfer from Arkansas-Little Rock has lived all over the globe, including Kapsowar, Kenya, which Rhodes lists as his hometown. The son of a missionary did attend high school in the U.S., in Ojai, Calif.
When Rhodes arrived at the South Bend Regional Airport to begin his ND academic career, he opted to traverse the 5.1 miles to campus in the most pragmatic manner he knew how.