When quarterback Everett Golson returns to the practice field, coach Brian Kelly won't just hand him back the keys to the program.
Kelly put Golson on notice Friday when he heaped praise on quarterback Malik Zaire and issuing a warning to the Irish.
“I just want to caution everybody that we have a very good quarterback in Malik Zaire,” Kelly said. “I'm not ready to hand everything over to Everett. I love Everett, he played in the national championship game, but I also want to make sure we give everybody an opportunity to compete for that position.”
No doubt Kelly is hoping to light a fire under both in saying the job is up for grabs, but it would be quite the upset if Zaire, who red-shirted in 2013, were to overtake Golson on the depth chart.
Kelly indicated Golson, who has two seasons of eligibility left after losing a year to an academic suspension, is on the right path to return and said he is in good shape physically but added Zaire was ready to challenge for the job in his second year in the program.
“We lost him a little bit, quite honestly,” Kelly said of Zaire. “When he sees himself as No. 3 1/2 (on the depth chart) and not getting in and not getting a lot of reps, you lose a kid's concentration a little bit and we lost him there for about four or five games. Once we got his attention back, it was clear he had a pretty good knowledge base of what we wanted to do.”
Kelly said both will be integral in his wish to make the Irish's offense “more dynamic outside the pocket” and that was one of the reasons he is reassuming play-calling duties.
“We're transitioning back to an offense I feel is best-suited for the personnel we have,” Kelly said. “Once we're able to lay that in there, it will give everybody a great visual look of what we want and I think it starts with me.
”If I want the offense to have the look it's important that I have the influence in some fashion and this is the best way to do it.“
That stands regardless of who is under center.