- Matt Fortuna, College Football
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — A year ago, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly was trying to figure out what he had in his two quarterbacks. Everett Golson had been away from school in the 2013 season, and Malik Zaire had redshirted during that campaign.
The new NCAA rule allowing coaches to meet with their players for up to two hours each week in the summer — as part of the maximum eight hours of mandatory workouts for players for eight weeks of the summer — gave Kelly and his staff a chance to install their offense with a new signal-caller from the previous season.
Now in Year 2 of the rule, and with a much better idea of what they have at the quarterback spot, the Irish are hoping to further establish an identity for the 2015 season, one that likely won't be dictated by whoever returns or doesn't return under center in 2015.
"I think the OTAs for us will be continuing to work on what we saw in the spring as some of our strengths and going back to them, and really focusing on who we are," Kelly said. "We want to have an identity when we come into camp. We've got to play Texas, Virginia and Georgia Tech right out of the gate."
With Notre Dame returning what is arguably the deepest offensive line of Kelly's six-year tenure — and with a trio of talented running backs behind that front — that could very well mean establishing the run, something the Irish did to perfection in their 2014 finale, a 31-28 upset over LSU in the Music City Bowl in which they rushed the ball on 51 of 77 plays for 263 yards, with no turnovers.
With four of five starters on the line back, the first-team offense ran the ball on 11 of its 12 opening-drive plays during Saturday's Blue-Gold spring game, punctuating the stanza with a 1-yard Golson touchdown run.
Zaire started the bowl game, but Golson saw significant time as well. Regardless of who the guy is in 2015 — and even if it's both guys — the Irish should be able to make better use of their extra allotted summer time, as they have a far better idea of what's in tow this year than they had at this time last year.
"We have to have an identity of who we are," Kelly said. "We can't wait four or five weeks to find out, 'Oh, well, we're a running team, we're a passing team, we're this, we're that.' We want to use those OTAs to really start to establish our DNA and our identity as to who we are."
Whether Everett Golson or Malik Zaire starts at quarterback, Notre Dame should emerge as a run-first team with a top line and a deep stable of backs.