SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The combination of an up-and-down season from the quarterbacks and the surprise addition of one of the country's top prep signal callers has put the position at the forefront for Notre Dame as it moves ahead to 2012.
And if an answer emerges out of spring practice, all the better, as far as new offensive coordinator Chuck Martin is concerned.
"I think you'd love to have one," Martin said when asked if he'd like a clear No. 1 out of the spring. "Is it realistic? I don't know. I just think it will play out in the spring. Maybe somebody takes it and runs with it and just comes into their own and they've played themself ahead of the other group. If it's not that, they're gonna work hard this summer with our strength staff. They'll throw it around on their own this summer and then you still got a long evaluation period in the fall.
"So for me it's not, it would be awesome if we did have a clear-cut starter but it's not, 'Oh my goodness we don't have a starter.' It won't be a big deal to me, and I don't think it would be a big deal to Coach [Brian] Kelly. We've been doing this long enough. You can name your starter before the first game, the day before the first game and it can be fine. He can go and win the Heisman Trophy. There's no magical answer. It's not when you have to name a starting quarterback."
Martin, the former Irish safeties coach, is charged with sorting out the puzzle created by the play of Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix last season and the promise Everett Golson and Gunner Kiel showed before coming to Notre Dame.
Kiel's 11th-hour spurn of LSU to commit to Notre Dame last month adds another element to what was already going to be a crowded offseason competition, one Kelly has turned his attention to with national signing day now in the rearview mirror.
"I think it's pretty obvious we've got four quarterbacks that all can compete at the BCS level," Kelly said. "Those are what our meetings are about right now, to be quite frank with you. What do you guys do after signing day? Well the question that you just asked, that's what we're posing in the staff meeting room. So we're designing a plan to go out and attack that. I think as we get closer to spring ball we'll probably have a better answer for you as it relates to specifically how we're gonna go about and do that."
Kelly admitted the offense is not yet where he wants it with two years behind him at Notre Dame, citing lack of consistency. Now Martin, who directed Grand Valley State's offense while guiding the Div. II Lakers as head coach for six seasons, is the man tasked with getting things up to speed.
Martin said priority No. 1 is figuring out where each quarterback is physically and mentally in deciphering the Irish's offense before moving ahead with whoever stands out from the pack.
"Because again it's the same thing: The kids that have played here the last two years have done plenty of good things," Martin said. "But it's not the good things that have gotten us beat, it's these three or four plays a game that put your whole team in a tough situation. It's not only the kid that can make plays but the kid that can also manage a game."