SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly would like to pick his starting quarterback after the first 19 practices. That way the Irish will have the final 10 days or so to get ready for their opener against South Florida on Sept. 3
The Irish quarterback derby will feature Dayne Crist, the starter last season until he hurt his knee and needed surgery for the second straight year; Tommy Rees, who started the final four games, all victories, including a win over Miami in the Sun Bowl; second-year player Andrew Hendrix; and freshman Everett Golson.
Kelly says he's like everyone else. He's not sure who the starter will be.
"It's really going to come down to the ability to run our offense at the pace and tempo we want to run it. So, Dayne and Tommy got the first shot at that because they got a little more experience," Kelly said Friday, a day before his second preseason camp begins, adding quickly that the skill of Hendrix and Golson makes them part of the mix.
"I'm going through this just like you guys. I'm going, 'All right, is it Dayne? Is it Tommy?' You can make a case for any one of them."
Kelly said the goal for the season was a BCS bowl. He's confident the Irish will be a better team for several reasons -- the players are more familiar with him, his system and coaching staff, and vice versa.
Crist and Rees won't face contact during camp, while Hendrix might on a limited basis and Golson definitely will, Kelly said.
With his strong arm, Crist would appear to be the favorite, even coming off a second injury and surgery. He showed the ability to bounce back a year ago from an injury when he was also confronted with learning Kelly's spread offense. Now he knows the system, one that requires some mobility from the quarterback.
"I think it starts with Dayne having to have escape ability. He still has to extend plays," Kelly said. "He doesn't have to reverse fields, doesn't have to run the ball for us to be successful. You know, when I had Tony Pike at Cincinnati, he could not run the football, either."
Recruiting will continue to be crucial as he tries to build the Irish back into a national contender. Kelly was asked if Notre Dame had lightened admissions standards to help the coaching staff recruit a larger segment of high school athletes.
"I'm recruiting to the philosophy at Notre Dame. And the philosophy at Notre Dame relative to our academics is that we are extremely competitive in the classroom," Kelly said. "You can't put a young man in that classroom that can't swim in the classroom. He's got to go in there and compete. I've never had a policy conversation where the president, myself, admissions, we all sat down and said, 'Coach, we're going to open the vault for you, whatever you need, you got.' What they've said is: 'Here's who we are at Notre Dame and here's our expectations of you coach Kelly, relative to the young men you bring into this university. One, they'd better graduate. Two, they'd better represent us in a positive way.' "
Kelly went 8-5 during a tumultuous first year. Now he is concentrating on making the Irish players in the national conversation against a schedule that includes Michigan, Michigan State, Southern California and Stanford.
Kelly sees the offensive line as one of the Irish's strengths because Chris Stewart was the only starter lost. At running back, the speedy Cierre Wood and Jonas Gray are 1-2, but Kelly views that as an area of concern because the Irish are not as deep. That means freshmen George Atkinson and Cam McDaniel may see action.
He said running back Cameron Roberson and offensive lineman Lane Clelland will miss the entire season because of knee injuries.
Kelly earlier this week reinstated star wide receiver Michael Floyd, who has more touchdown catches than any player in school history. He'd been suspended after a March arrest for drunken driving.