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POPE: Notre Dame will benefit from QB battle

Notre Dame quarterback Everett Gols(5) warms up during opening day spring football practice Monday March 3 2014 South Bend Ind.

Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson (5) warms up during the opening day of spring football practice, Monday, March 3, 2014, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/South Bend Tribune, James Brosher) ORG XMIT: INSBE101

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Updated: April 27, 2014 6:34AM



SOUTH BEND — This is the time of the year for crazy predictions.

The time you fill out a bracket and pick a No. 15 seed to topple No. 2 seed. The time of year you still believe the Cubs have a chance at winning it all.

Well, here’s a sports prediction that is not off the wall.

This isn’t exactly going out on a limb, but barring an injury, I’d be surprised if Everett Golson isn’t the quarterback when Notre Dame opens the season Aug. 30 against Rice.

Much has been made of the competition at the position this spring between Golson and rising sophomore Malik Zaire. It’s been helpful for both players, and in the long run the team.

Last week, coach Brian Kelly said both are continuing to work to get in a comfort zone.

“I’ve got a pretty good feeling that we are going to have a supporting cast for our quarterback, we’re going to have some skill players. I think our offensive line and tight end play is going to be good,” Kelly said. “We just have to get our quarterback developed to the point where he’s comfortable running our offense. And he will be, it’s just going to take some time.”

In some cases, it’s not a good sign when a coach hasn’t definitively named a starting quarterback. It could be a question that hovers over a team like a dark cloud and could eventually cause a rift.

This is not one of those times that scenario applies.

This move has pushed both quarterbacks. In Golson’s case, he has had to work to justify regaining the starter’s role after missing the 2013 season because of a suspension.

“I think I have to win the job,” Golson said. “Nothing is given to you. I’ve learned that since I was young. It’s just me trying to better myself and hoping that everything takes care of itself in the end.”

That includes continuing to familiarize himself with some of the receivers. After all, some of the targets Golson threw to in 2012 while helping the Irish reach the BCS national title game are not in camp.

“He doesn’t have (wide receiver) TJ (Jones). (DaVaris) Daniels isn’t here. All the guys that he had a little bit of that timing, he’s working with all new guys. So he doesn’t have any of that. It’s really like he’s working with a whole new cast of characters in that sense,” Kelly said. “Malik has more timing with some of these guys than he does in a sense. (Golson is) working through it. I wouldn’t say he’s frustrated at all. He has a good grasp of what we’re doing. But it’s going to take some time.

“He has a great sense of what we are doing and how we are doing it. But he’s been away for a little bit. We have plenty of time. He’s been fun to coach. I look for guys to be coachable and he’s very coachable. He communicates well with me. He’s extremely competitive. And that’s a good thing.”

Zaire’s confidence continues to grow. Here was someone who didn’t see any action as a freshman and someone who was slowed down at the start of the 2013 because of mononucleosis.

Zaire is well aware of the hurdle he has to clear to become “the man.”

“When a guy has been there and done that in the sense with the game experience, it’s always going to be an uphill battle,” Zaire said. “Being that it’s an open competition, there are definitely some challenges and some struggles that I would have to go through to go up that hill.

“It’s not going to be an easy ride whatsoever because of the fact that the guy has been there and done that. At the same time, I’m confident in myself to be able to go out there and do what it takes to win games.”

It’s a good sign the way both quarterbacks have embraced the competition.

“These are two competitive kids,” Kelly said. “Malik wants to beat out Everett. But it’s a very positive kind of atmosphere. He’s just a highly competitive kid and he’s extremely confident in his ability. Extremely. Sometimes I have to settle him down a little bit. But that’s a good thing.

“I’d rather have that than somebody who doesn’t think he can do it. The dynamic is very positive. They are very good with each other. They help each other, but it’s not one where they are going to share notes and how can I help you beat me out.”

In the end, give the edge to Golson. His experience is a difference-maker. He’s been in the big games and found ways to win.

But this entire exercise of giving both quarterbacks a shot will aid the Irish.

And that’s a prediction you can bank on.



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