SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly insists there is no favorite to start at quarterback as the Irish open preseason camp on Saturday.
Incumbent Tommy Rees is suspended for the Sept. 1 opener against Navy in Dublin, Ireland, and is just one of four candidates the third-year coach will consider over the next few weeks.
“I’ve got an idea, but we’ve got to see how this plays out,” Kelly said Friday. “We’re going to have to rep these guys, we’re going to give them a lot of work, a lot of situations. The ultimate decider is what they do out on the practice field.”
Sophomore Everett Golson, freshman Gunner Kiel and junior Andrew Hendrix are all in the mix. Kelly said all four quarterbacks will get plenty of work with an emphasis on finding a Navy starter but also who would play the rest of the year.
“Early on we’ve got to be able to see three quarterbacks (for Navy) and as we move closer to finding if there’s a separation, then will start separating the reps,” Kelly said. “We’re not at that point and it’s going to take some time to figure it out. Ultimately we want to give the quarterback for Navy a lot of reps leading into the game.”
Rees, a junior from Lake Forest, Ill., started 12 of 13 games as the Irish went 8-5 last season, including an 18-14 Champs Sports Bowl loss to Florida State. He and linebacker Carlo Calabrese were both suspended one game by Kelly after their May 3 arrests outside an off-campus party.
Rees pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of illegal alcohol consumption and resisting law enforcement. He was sentenced to 50 hours of community service and 11 months of probation. A monthlong jail term was suspended. Calabrese has entered a pretrial diversion program and a misdemeanor intimidation charge against him will be dismissed if he performs 20 hours of community service and isn’t arrested again in the next year.
Kelly said the suspensions were not arbitrary and he considered a variety of factors.
“All cases of discipline are about the individual,” Kelly said. “I look at the facts, I look at information and I make decisions based upon the individual. At the end of the day I want great citizens, so whatever those sanctions are it’s with that end in mind.”
Kelly, 16-10 through two Notre Dame seasons, said there is a mutual comfort between coaches and players as he starts his third season. And the challenging Irish schedule — which includes three Big Ten teams, Miami, Stanford and USC — is manageable.
“We see it as a great challenge,” he said. “We want to play these kind of schedules. And now our players understand how they have to go attack it. You can’t climb Mt. Everest in one day, but you can do it with great preparation and you can do it with great focus.”
Notre Dame opens its home season Sept. 8 against Purdue before traveling to Michigan State on Sept. 15.