SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Notre Dame has a quarterback controversy and coach Brian Kelly figures it might last a while.
This Saturday's spring game probably won't clear anything up in the race between Dayne Crist and Tommy Rees.
"I would like to have one guy (come out of the game) and say 'he's our guy,'" Kelly said Tuesday. "But there is no way we leave the spring game, unless something dramatic happens, where we say, 'We found our starter.'"
Kelly is setting it up so that no particular star emerges. Crist and Rees will see limited action and the defense won't be allowed to hit them. The battle for No. 3 could be settled a bit with Everett Golson and Andrew Hendrix taking most of the snaps and subject to full-contact play.
"This will be Golson vs. Hendrix, relative to the offense," Kelly said. "This will be fun for me because we will get a real good feel for those two guys."
Kelly's assessment of Crist and Rees has remained consistent for most of spring practice.
"They all have different skill sets," Kelly said. "Dane really knows the offense probably as well as anybody. He makes good decisions. Tommy is efficient. I think we all know about Tommy. Once you start to think about him getting beat out, he has a day like today, and he wins. He is 4-0 as a starter.
"Then the two young guys are exciting to watch," Kelly continued. "Golson got some first team reps today (Wednesday) and made some plays. I'm not sure he knows what he is doing all the time but I'm not going to over-coach him either. He has a natural gift of making plays and then Hendrix continues to move forward."
The Crist-Rees battle has been brewing since last fall.
Crist tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during the 2009 season as a backup, but battled back to be Kelly's No. 1 quarterback.
Last Oct. 30 against Tulsa, Crist suffered a ruptured patellar tendon in his left knee. In stepped Rees, who led the Irish on a four-game winning streak to end the season, including a Sun Bowl victory over Miami.
Crist is not the mobile runner that some spread offenses can be built around. He completed 59 percent of his passes last season with 15 TDs and seven interceptions. Rees, an early enrollee freshman last season, completed 61 percent with 130 fewer attempts and threw for 12 TDs with eight interceptions.
Would Kelly prefer to have a starter already decided upon? Maybe, or maybe not.
"If I had (Stanford star quarterback) Andrew Luck, I would be very happy," he said. "For me, I don't have a preconceived notion. I kind of deal with it. In this case, we have four guys that need a lot of work to continue development. I've been on the other side of this, too, where one quarterback was clearly No. 1 and it allows you to do a lot of different things as well."
Until the starter is chosen, Kelly's job is more complicated.
"We are preparing four (different) packages for four guys right now," he said. "We are preparing for worst case scenario. We don't want to get caught like we did last year where we didn't have guys who could really run our offense."
Notre Dame opens its season Sept. 3 at home against South Florida.