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Thursday, April 10, 2014
Notre Dame QBs adjusting to new defense

By Matt Fortuna

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- A new defensive coordinator and upward of six new starters on that side of the ball have helped present a fair amount of challenges for Notre Dame this spring. And not just for the defense.

Brian Kelly has thrown the book at his quarterbacks this past month, creating confusion for Everett Golson and Malik Zaire as they try to accelerate the growth of an offense expected to lead the charge for a relatively young team. And while the results have been uneven at times, Kelly has been pleased with his signal-callers' frames of mind with Saturday's Blue-Gold game approaching.

"Most would not allow it to go the way I have, and I mean, it would be much more controlled," Kelly said. "I allow it to happen at will. I want our quarterbacks to see it all. They have seen more exotics, they have seen more things than they (will see) next year at any one time.

"It’s difficult. It’s really hard, but I’d rather have it be difficult so when I go into that meeting, we have great meetings and you can teach off it, learn off it and get better. Our quarterbacks understand that."

Call it a byproduct of 24 years of quarterback development, or perhaps a reality about the shorter learning curve with defense that Kelly stated three years ago after hauling in his first full recruiting class, when he said you can't "fake" it on defense.

The fifth-year Irish head coach would rather overload his offense while he can this spring and ask questions later, for the unit's margin of error may simply just be bigger given all of the moving parts with the retooled defense.

"You have to keep in mind: We graded out quarterbacks the other day and nobody had a 2.0 cumulative, OK?" Kelly said. "And the quarterbacks agreed with that grade. They agreed. We had a number of categories we graded and a lot of it is because they were taking 500-level classes. It wasn’t easy stuff for them. The great point about it is they see that as well that they have a lot of work to do. Malik hasn’t played yet. Everett played but you saw how we ran the offense with Everett. It took him a few games and Tommy (Rees) helped us with some games. The defense did a great job of winning games for us and (Golson) didn’t play last year. So he’s still learning too. It’s been great teaching and (Brian VanGorder has) helped us a lot with what he’s doing."

Whether that means outcomes this fall more in line with Kelly's Cincinnati days than his teams' tractor-pulls of recent years remains to be seen, but his quarterbacks are invigorated by the challenge.

"The defense, I think they’re pretty aggressive with their blitzing and stuff like that and I think we have to be aggressive as well on offense," Golson said. "It’s an opportunity for us to be really special."