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April 21, 2011

It's a wrap…Quarterback

Go to the head of the class Dayne Crist and Tommy Rees have some experience, a grasp of the system and the confidence to lead those around them, which puts them at the top of the depth chart heading into the summer.

Crist was just 4-5 as a starter, but he got very little help from the defense against Michigan, Michigan State and Stanford when it allowed 471 yards per game while the Irish rushing attack accounted for just 96.6 yards per game and 3.5 yards per carry. His worst game coincided with the defense's, which allowed 367 yards rushing to Navy. Crist completed a respectable 59.2 percent of his passes for 2,033 yards, 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions in nine games.

Rees improved his game during his three regular-season starts - taking a temporary step backwards against USC when he was picked off three times and fumbled inside his own 10. But he led the Irish to a comeback victory over the Trojans and took a huge leap forward in the Sun Bowl when he completed 15-of-29 for 201 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Rees threw 12 touchdown passes and was intercepted eight times on the season while completing 61.0 percent of his passes.

Crist likely enters the 2011 season as the starter since he won the job hands-down leading up to the 2010 season and is the most complete package at the present time. But Rees will remain in competition for the job. One advantage Brian Kelly has now that he didn't have last season is that he doesn't have to wait for an injury to make a change at quarterback. If the starter struggles, the back-up has game experience, savvy, and a track record of winning games.

Making a moveAndrew Hendrix started out shakily in the Blue-Gold Game. But just when you thought he might be the easy choice for No. 4 on the depth chart, he heated up, rushing for two touchdowns and completing 10-of-16 for 113 yards.

Hendrix offers a power runner from the quarterback position at a solid 6-foot-2, 218 pounds. He showed he wasn't afraid to stick his nose in there and deliver a hit as well as take one.

Where he is in the grand scheme of things in the passing game is difficult to discern based upon the spring game. But he handled adversity, rose to the occasion and made a positive impression in his first appearance in front of a live Notre Dame Stadium offense.

Opening eyesEverett Golson's greatest challenge will be proving to the coaching staff that he can protect the football, which was the mantra ringing in the early entry's head throughout the spring. Because he's such a dynamic athlete with the arm to throw himself out of a jam as well as the feet to run out of it, Golson tries to do too much sometimes, which leads to turnovers, like the fumble that Ishaq Williams caused in the Blue-Gold Game.

It was obvious from some of the comments from Kelly during the Blue-Gold Game that there is much that Golson doesn't see in terms of coverages by the defense, and that was against one of the most vanilla looks that Bob Diaco could present. He frequently abandoned the pocket when it wasn't necessary.

But in terms of sheer excitement and the ability to create a spectacular play out of nothing, no one has the overall physical attributes among the four in competition that Golson does, which could be an exciting talent to save for the future or a piece to the 2011 offensive puzzle, particularly when the Irish need some rushing production out of the quarterback position. Golson might be an alternative to jump-start the offense with the read option play, which would be another way for the Irish to compensate for a thin depth chart at running back.

At the crossroads Not sure anyone fits into this category at the present time. But the reality is that whoever finishes No. 4 in the race - most likely Hendrix or Golson - he will be looking at a long, uphill struggle to get to the top of the depth chart.

Crist enters the season with two years of eligibility remaining, and Rees has three. Both Hendrix and Golson have four years of eligibility remaining, which means neither should be overly antsy about being No. 4 on the depth chart for the time being. A year from now, it could be a different story.

projected depth chart 1) Dayne Crist, 2) Tommy Rees, 3) Everett Golson, 4) Andrew Hendrix

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