NCF Nation: 2012 Notre Dame spring preview

QB play biggest issue going into spring

February, 16, 2012
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Brian Kelly has not exactly seen a Brian Kelly offense so far.

Sure, there have been 50-point showings here and there, but several obstacles -- inconsistent quarterback play chief among them -- have kept the offensive guru hungry heading into his third year at Notre Dame.

"We certainly have not had the success that we want offensively," Kelly said. "But I would say more importantly the consistency. I think we've shown signs of it, we haven't been able to do it consistently. And that's really why we're an 8-5 football team. We've been inconsistent as a football team. And so I think we have not got to where we wanna be, we're not even really close to where I wanna be. That's why we had the movement that we did on the offensive side of the ball."

[+] EnlargeNotre Dame's Chuck Martin
AP Photo/Joe RaymondChuck Martin is moving from safeties coach to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
The biggest movement is Chuck Martin's switch from safeties coach to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Odd as the move may be, it does not mark unfamiliar territory for Martin, who was in charge of the offense as head coach of Grand Valley State from 2004-09.

The situation in front of him now, however, is likely more complicated, as he is tasked with sorting through four quarterbacks and handing over the car keys of the offense to the man who can elevate the Irish to the next level following consecutive 8-5 seasons.

Maybe it's junior Tommy Rees, 12-4 as a starter through nearly two seasons. Or junior Andrew Hendrix, who showed flashes of potential in spot duty last season, but never earned extended playing time.

Everett Golson's redshirt season naturally made him the most popular choice among clamoring fans. And early enrollee Gunner Kiel, a prized prospect from Columbus, Ind., has been deemed the biggest recruit the Irish have landed thus far in the Kelly era.

"When you have the CEO, and he still has a major hand in what you're doing, well he's relying on not only me as a coordinator but all the other pieces he put in place on offense to teach his systems at the highest level," Martin said. "And the proof is what happens on Saturday. How well you play on Saturday is how well the kids understand what we're doing, and being consistent for 13 weeks, it's difficult, but it needs to get done if you wanna have the successes that we believe we can have here."

Martin has probably already endeared himself to tireless Notre Dame fans by saying that he, too, would love to know who his starting quarterback will be once spring practice is finished. But he knows it's not that simple, especially in this case, and an answer may have to wait.

The versatile coach chuckled when asked if he was invigorated by the challenge of taking the offense to the level the Irish expect it to be at.

"You probably don't know me as well. People that know me would probably laugh at that question," Martin said. "That's who I am. If I was still coaching the secondary it'd be the same. It doesn't matter to me. I want us to be perfect all the time. Period. End of story. I'm probably dumb enough to believe we can be. Whether we can or not will remain to be seen. But it doesn't matter. He can put me anywhere on the staff. Everybody knows how I feel about Notre Dame. Everybody knows how I feel about Brian Kelly. So he could tell me to coach any position on the team and I'd go to work the same way."

Notre Dame spring preview

February, 16, 2012
Feels like just yesterday we were in Orlando, no? Yet just a little more than a month from now, spring practice will be underway, and at Notre Dame, there is plenty to be sorted out before the 2012 season kicks off this fall.


Spring practice start date: March 21
Spring game: April 21

What to watch:
  • The quarterback battle. Four candidates, one spot. Two played last year, two others were ballyhooed recruits. Oh, and there's a new QB coach, too. Former safeties coach Chuck Martin will coordinate the offense and direct the signal-callers, jobs he held as Grand Valley State's head coach from 2004-09.
  • Reshuffled staff: Martin wasn't the only one making a change. No one from Notre Dame's offensive staff last season holds the same title in 2012, with Harry Hiestand (offensive line/running game coordinator) and Scott Booker (tight ends/special teams coordinator) providing new faces. Bob Elliott comes from Iowa State to replace Martin as safeties coach. For some current players, 2012 will mark a third different position coach within a four-year span.
  • How good can this front seven be? Likely first-round draft pick Manti Te'o returns for his senior year to captain the defense, but that job may be much easier with the talent in front of him. Sophomore ends Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt exploded onto the scene in their freshman seasons, and junior noseguard Louis Nix proved to be a force in the middle. The pass rush could be devastating, making life much easier for a secondary that will likely feature three new starters.