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August 2, 2013

QB rotation easy as 1-2-3

Notre Dame lost quarterback talent this summer when Everett Golson was suspended from the University. The Irish also gained quarterback order.

Heading into training camp Brian Kelly can view the most important spot on his roster with a sense of certainty in Tommy Rees, Andrew Hendrix and Malik Zaire. When Notre Dame takes the field at Shiloh Park on Monday afternoon for its first workout, the coaching staff knows what it has in its starter, what it wants from its backup and what it needs to learn about its third-stringer.

Rees will open camp as the unquestioned starter, Hendrix will return to the change-of-pace role that the staff tried to create two years ago and Zaire has proven good enough since enrolling to stay off the scout team.

There will be a division of quarterback reps like last fall camp, but each snap won't be breathlessly charted within a position battle the sucks the oxygen out of every practice. For now Rees gets the nod with his 18 starts of experience a major reason why.

"Because he was the most experienced and gave us the best opportunity to win against Temple coming out," Kelly said. "I didn't name him the starter for all 13 games. I named him the starter for Temple. My expectation is he will take the job and continue to lead our football team. He was the most experienced. He's won. He obviously knows our offense very well. He's a senior. Well‑respected. He has all the things. It was really a quite easy decision from that standpoint."

Kelly hopes to get more from Hendrix after struggling to experiment with him two years ago and abandoning him all together last season with Golson in control. Hendrix played in just three games last season (Rees was suspended in one, Golson sidelined in another) and rushed more times (eight) than he passed (seven).

As a sophomore, Hendrix worked the second half in a season-ending loss at Stanford and played plenty in the Champs Sports Bowl loss to Florida State.

"Well, you know my philosophy has been our No. 2 gets much more work than most twos in the country," Kelly said. "It's proven that way because I have a tendency to play more than one quarterback. But I would say that Andrew is going to get a lot of reps. Tommy needs a lot of work, too, because he didn't get many last year. You'll see a break there, whether it's (60/40) or (70/30) in terms of numbers between one and two. We will definitely get Malik in the mix as well."

Zaire's role figured to be with the scout team this fall before Golson's suspension. The quarterback turnover probably won't push the early enrollee into action, but it may force Kelly to get him ready to play.

During the Blue-Gold Game Zaire worked with deep reserves and walk-ons during the second half once Golson, Rees and Hendrix were done for the day. He finished 5-of-8 for 62 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

"We want to keep him with us. When I say 'us,' we want to keep him with the starters. That's important," Kelly said. "He needs to get that firsthand knowledge of the offense and defense, see the college game. It's very important for us to keep him."

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