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Kelly: No 'artificial' QB competition at Notre Dame

Find out what Notre Dame's Brian Kelly had to say during his opening press conference of the summer.
Brian Kelly insists there's a quarterback competition as Notre Dame opens camp.
Updates from Brian Kelly's opening press conference, including news on Everett Golson and injury updates.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Even though Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has a quarterback on his roster who started in a BCS national championship game and another of similar style who hasn’t taken a snap in college, he would like you to know that, no, really, the Irish have a quarterback competition.

In his comments Friday to kick off Notre Dame’s summer camp, which begins Monday at Culver Military Academy, Kelly reiterated the stance he has maintained since senior Everett Golson returned in January from academic exile: that the job is not automatically Golson’s, nor is sophomore Malik Zaire merely there to serve as depth.

Skeptics may claim that policy is in place to placate a rambunctious Zaire and motivate Golson, but nonetheless it’s the policy that will guide Notre Dame’s signal-callers at least for the first practices of camp.

“I'm not playing a game where we are trying to create artificial competition within the ranks,” Kelly said. “We still have competition for that particular role to show itself. When it does, we'll be ready to make that declaration.”

Kelly said he has no timetable for naming a starting quarterback. He said Golson’s biggest hurdle to reclaiming his job is gaining an advanced knowledge of the playbook so he knows what is supposed to happen without coaches needing to tell him.

“It's the why of the playbook; why are we doing this?” Kelly said. “What's the next call here when you see this coverage? That's where we are in this process — why.”

For Zaire, it’s eliminating mistakes that come with a lack of experience.

“Sometimes we just have to keep him focused on a day-to-day basis and stay within the system,” Kelly said. “I really like his progression. He's been great this summer; just don't revert back to some of the mistakes he's made in the past.”

Kelly said the offense needs to score more than it has the last two seasons. But who will be generating those points remains a question — at least to hear Kelly tell it.

Injury news: The most sobering news Kelly delivered was that senior defensive lineman Tony Springmann’s career is over because of a lingering back injury.

Springmann will be placed on a medical scholarship and remain involved with the team. His injury is a blow to a defensive line that’s short on depth and experience.

In other injury news, Kelly said the progress of linebacker Jarrett Grace (broken leg) is encouraging and Grace should be close to playing when the season opens.

“It's going to be a wait-and-see process, but he is so much closer than we thought he could be,” Kelly said.

Kelly also confirmed the Tribune’s report Monday that tight end Mike Heuerman is recovering from surgery to repair a hernia. He will be out at least one month, Kelly said. Tight end Ben Koyack had offseason shoulder surgery but is fine as camp opens, Kelly said.

Sykes’ departure: Former Montini linebacker Nile Sykes’ Notre Dame career was over before it began, with Sykes transferring to Indiana just weeks after arriving on campus in June. Notre Dame granted him a full release from his scholarship, and he is eligible to play for the Hoosiers this fall.

“It just wasn't the right fit,” Kelly said. “He's now in a situation where he feels like it's a great fit for him, and we wish him the best.”

 

chine@tribune.com

Twitter @ChristopherHine

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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