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Kelly: Notre Dame quarterbacks still battling

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Golson, Zaire haven't seized the top spot yet

Tuesday, August 5, 2014 - 2:29 am

CULVER – Notre Dame football coach wasn't micromanaging his quarterbacks during their first day of training camp at Culver Military Academy Monday. In fact, for long portions of the practice session, he wasn't even with the group, as he had to coach the wide receivers in wake of offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Mike Denbrock missing the early portion of camp following a surgery.

But don't mistake Kelly's omnipresence with prodigal starter Everett Golson and redshirt freshman Malik Zaire as he's not following the progress of both closely. And according to the coach, he still needs to follow the development of both players closely.

“During 7-on-7 work I'm standing back there evaluating the entire offense,” Kelly said.

Based on which player was working with the starting offense all practice, Golson appears to be the leader for the job ahead of Zaire and true freshman DeShone Kizer, who will most certainly redshirt this season. After missing the 2013 season due to academic misconduct, Golson has returned and the junior said afterward that he is a different person – and player – than when Irish fans saw him 18 months ago in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game.

“In 2012, everything was new to me,” Golson said. “I was living in a cloud, it was kind of far-fetched. Now I'm coming out here and really just trying to run this offense properly and try to get everybody on the same page.”

Golson looked sharp throughout the practice. He put zip on the ball when needed and showed deft touch when that was called for. His accuracy appeared to set him apart from the younger Zaire, who was sporadically erratic.

However, Kelly didn't see enough of a separation of the two athletes during the spring, summer, or Monday, which would cause him to name a starter.

“I think in an ideal world, every coach would want one quarterback that has clearly demonstrated a consistency, great leadership, and the ability to take you to a championship,” Kelly said recently. “And if that guy shows himself, I'm ready to name him. I'm not playing a game where we are trying to create artificial competition within the ranks.”

When it was pointed out that Golson did take the Irish to the BCS title game, Kelly quickly responded “I would argue that Everett rode the bus to the championship.”

In years past (as there has almost always been a quarterback controversy since Kelly arrived in South Bend), the veteran coach has named his starter just over a week ahead of the season opener (the Irish open at home against Rice on Aug. 30). That very well may be the case this training camp, as well.

“The 10 days out probably was more of a deadline so that we built some continuity with the first group and everybody knew who the starter was,” Kelly said. “That's probably the time where you want to get it done.

“I'll make the call when it's clear. And I think that's where it's probably the most prudent time if you know (who the starter is). (But) if you don't know, you don't know. And you just keep going until you find out.”