At Notre Dame, football is the center of attention 24/7. It doesn't matter what the outlook is for the upcoming season -- the fans eat, breathe and sleep Irish pigskin.
This offseason, there's even this tiny quarterback controversy thing that has kept everyone foaming at the mouth riveted.
Here are the four candidates for the starting quarterback position in the fall:
Tommy Rees - Rees is the incumbent starter. A one-hundred percent pocket passer, he is a true junior and sports a 12-4 record at the helm. But while that makes him sound like a shoo-in based on experience, he has been plagued by serious turnover troubles in the past. Still, in the current hierarchy, it's his job to lose.
Andrew Hendrix - Hendrix will enter this season as a redshirt sophomore. He is a quarterback meant for the spread, combining a very strong arm with above-average mobility. Having played in the system for several years, and having seen the field several times near the end of last season, he is comfortable stepping in and leading the team.
Everett Golson - Golson, a redshirt freshman, is the real wild card in the race. While his biggest asset may be his elite athleticism, he is very much a passing quarterback, throwing the sixth-most touchdown passes in American high school football history. The question marks on Golson are his size (he is very generously listed at 6-feet and 185 lbs), his command of the playbook, and his ability to direct the team (get them lined up properly, analyze plays pre-snap, etc.) like a true leader.
Gunner Kiel - Kiel, the nephew of former Notre Dame QB Blair Kiel, was the number one pro-style quarterback recruit in the country last year, and early-enrolled for the Irish this spring. He looks the part at 6-foot-4, 220 lbs, but it may be asking too much of a true freshman to step right in and win.
Where do they stand?
Though four candidates are listed above, it's really a three horse race. Based purely on his youth and inexperience, Gunner Kiel can be eliminated from the competition.
Veteran Tommy Rees reportedly had the best spring, cutting down on his interceptions significantly in practice (according to Coach Kelly), but he also very much underwhelmed fans at the Blue-Gold Game in April. He then managed to get himself arrested for underage drinking and several other offenses, which certainly doesn't help his cause. While he still awaits the verdict on legal punishment, he was cleared by Coach Kelly to workout and practice with the rest of the team.
The arrest would have been an excellent opportunity for Kelly to "conveniently" drop Rees from the race and let one of the other guys take the reigns. However, the fact that Kelly fully reinstated Rees with no limitations (as of now) is a ringing endorsement for the junior.
In the public eye, Golson seems to have everything that Rees lacks. He also had an excellent spring game, which has helped fuel his proponents. Yet, it will take a phenomenal four weeks of practice in August from Golson if he is to usurp Tommy's starting spot. While the spring game is fun for fans, it is nothing more than a glorified practice to the coaches, and he will have to make up his ground in camp.
Hendrix was a fan favorite last fall (isn't the back-up always?), but many fans have turned to Golson instead after Hendrix had a subpar performance in the bowl game versus Florida State. Time will tell if his experience and athleticism make him a viable candidate for the job. He is the "best of both worlds" blend to Tommy and Everett.
Ultimately, it is far too early to declare who'll win the race, but it seems Tommy Rees is still the frontrunner. The real competition starts August 3rd, when football camp opens up for the Irish.