Achieving enough success has many rewards for a college football program, one of which is the fact that it affords the coaches the opportunity to look into the distant future just as much as the near future.
Notre Dame opened its first of 10 practices leading up to the Pinstripe Bowl (Dec. 28, 12:15 p.m., ESPN) on Sunday and Irish coach Brian Kelly glanced into the distant future initially.
Kelly is fully expecting former starter Everett Golson to return to the program later this month, however, on Sunday he got an extensive amount of work done with true freshman quarterback Malik Zaire running the offense.
“I was able to get 20 reps of really good work with Malik today,” Kelly said. “The young guys get a lot of work (in bowl practices). (Freshman receiver) Torii Hunter and Malik worked together today. Those kind of guys got out there today.”
Zaire come to South Bend 12 months ago and has been lauded for his willingness to compete, as well as his athletic ability and football instincts. But his ability to start this spring will depend on how Golson looks after sitting out the 2013 season due to being expelled for an academic-related matter in May.
Zaire will be joined by incoming freshman DeShone Kizer, as well as Golson, each of whom is on scholarship. Also a possibility could be fifth-year senior Andrew Hendrix or even (though a long shot), former quarterback Luke Massa, who is also eligible for a fifth year on campus.
I think four quarterbacks on scholarship is heavy,” Kelly said. But circumstances sometimes put you in that position and the circumstances might be that you’ve inherited quarterbacks that have scholarships already.”
Kelly has only “inherited” Hendrix and Massa in this situation, and he has the veto power on both of them being granted a final season with the Irish.
The coach further elaborated on what he feels is the ideal situation heading into the 2014 season.
“If you’re working through a natural progression, three (scholarship quarterbacks) and a preferred walk-on would suit me just fine.”
So what type of player fits the criteria of a “preferred walk-on?” Bishop Dwenger High School senior Mike Fiacable must, because Kelly has offered him the opportunity to fill that role after leading the Saints to the IHSAA Class 4A Football State Championship Game last week.
Fiacable is intrigued by the opportunity, but he is also contemplating a potential offer from the Air Force Academy, as well.
“I’m not sure what doors will open and what other opportunities will bring,” Fiacable told The News-Sentinel Sunday. “I’m taking my time with it. I’ll go where I’m supposed to.”
No work for Golson
There had been speculation that Golson might be able to return to the Notre Dame football program in time to get in some work prior to the bowl game. However, Kelly said due to the logistics of everything, that won’t be a possibility.
The incoming junior would only be eligible to join the team after the end of the first semester (Dec. 20), and because of the practice schedule and getting to New York for the bowl game, Kelly said the on-field opportunity for Golson just won’t work.
“We’re not going to practice on the 21st and he won’t get here (by then),” Kelly said. “He’s going to New York to see his girlfriend and we’re just not going to have the time and place to get him into practice.
“Everett may join us in New York for a few days, but we’re not going to have a chance to get him in here to practice, assuming that he’s readmitted into school.”