SOUTH BEND – Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly is no closer to naming a starting quarterback Saturday then he was last week when fall camp started.
Kelly did say Tommy Rees played more with the first-team offense Saturday than Dayne Crist as the evaluation process continued between the jobs frontrunners.
Too close to call at this point, which is what we kind of thought that we would need that second week, Kelly said. Right now, I would say they are neck and neck.
Kelly was quick to also include sophomore Andrew Hendrix and freshman Everett Golson in the quarterback derby, but Crist, who started nine games last year before a knee injury, and Rees, who started four games, have the edge.
The quarterback battle is on between Crist and Rees, and the two young guys continue to make progress in the limited reps that they get, Kelly said.
One position battle that is settled is at outside linebacker.
Prince Shembo, who had 15 tackles and 4 1/2 sacks last year mainly playing in the nickel package, has won the starting spot at what the Irish call dog linebacker. He beat out fellow sophomore Danny Spond, who played eight games mainly on special teams last season.
Danny had a lot of good things going, but Prince has been a solid, solid player for us in the past week, Kelly said of choosing a starter opposite cat linebacker Darius Fleming.
Shembo, who played defensive end in high school, made his biggest strides in being able to drop back into coverage.
Before, I was dropping in different zones and now Im dropping in the right zones, Shembo said. Now it feels natural.
Dropping into coverage was natural for Spond, a high school safety, and he is expected to receive plenty of playing time behind Shembo as the two help each other progress.
We have a great relationship, Spond said. Prince does his thing. I do my thing. And at the end of the day, we just try to make each other the best that we can.
Kelly also appears to have settled on his starting left guard, senior Andrew Nuss. The only position on the offensive line that doesnt have a returning starter was up for grabs between Nuss and junior Chris Watt.
We let him battle for the guard position, Kelly said of Nuss.
We didnt want to immediately say, OK, you are our utility guy. You can help us every where. Because you dont give a kid a fair shot to earn a starting position if you do that. Hes really had a great battle with Watt, and both of those guys will play.
Kelly said Nuss will also need to play tackle this year.
If we dont play him at tackle, our next guy in is a freshman, Kelly said.
Theo Riddick is also a valuable player that could be used at more than one spot this season. The junior slot receiver is being kept prepared to play his original position at Notre Dame – running back.
The Irish have junior Cierre Wood being backed up by senior Jonas Gray and freshmen George Atkinson and Cam McDaniel behind them.
We will have the ability within our system to put him in the backfield if we see that as a need, Kelly said. Whether we need to do it, or whether we feel like it has to happen is another thing. We will always be prepared if we ever get shorthanded that Theo can line up at the running back position.