Bettis: Notre Dame QB situation shouldn't be a time-share

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

Jerome Bettis doesn’t envy Brian Kelly when it comes to eventually having to separate Notre Dame’s top two quarterbacks on the depth chart.

But the former Notre Dame All-American said it’s important that the Irish head football coach does ultimately make that separation instead of concocting a time-share arrangement.

“It’s not going to be easy,” Bettis said via telephone from New York, where he was being honored by the Kelly Cares Foundation for his philanthropic endeavors.

“What you do is you give both of them the opportunity to compete. And once the competition is over, if the winner is not clear-cut, then you go with the upperclassman.”

That would be senior-to-be Malik Zaire in the tiebreaker scenario.

Zaire was No. 1 to start the 2015 season, then suffered a broken ankle in game two, versus Virginia. Junior-to-be DeShone Kizer then proceeded to record one of the best statistical seasons, both passing and running, by a QB in school history.

The open competition kicks off Wednesday, when ND stages the first of 15 spring practice sessions. They conclude with the annual Blue-Gold Game, April 16 (12:30 p.m. EDT) at Notre Dame Stadium.

ND trustee Jay Jordan and the KeiraStrong Foundation shared the spotlight with Bettis on Monday at the sixth annual Irish Eyes Gala, the Kelly Cares Foundation’s signature event.

Bettis, a 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, was honored for his The Bus Stops Here Foundation, which since 1996 has worked to improve the overall quality of life for troubled and less fortunate kids by offering programs to help them succeed in life.

The 44-year-old former running back is particularly proud of a program from his foundation in which inner-city kids in his hometown of Detroit and pro football home Pittsburgh get a jump start on computer literacy.

“We’d take them to a college campus and have the college instructors explain to them and teach them about the computer,” he said, “how to build it from scratch, how to program it, build websites. And then at the end of the program, we would give them the computer to take home.

“Most of these kids don’t have computers at home, so it was an opportunity now to help the families with a computer inside the home. Now there’s hundreds of kids who are ahead of the curve when it comes to the technology world that we live in. Without it, these kids were unfortunately going to be on the back end.”

Bettis was in the mood to talk football, too. Here’s a sampling of what was on his mind:

• On former ND running back C.J. Prosise’s pro potential: “I see a ton of possibility with him. You’ve got to understand, he’s still raw in terms of not totally developing as a running back, but he also has a skill set that is very useful in terms of being able to catch the football out of the backfield as a wide receiver.

“So now that gives him an opportunity to have an incredible range as a running back, because the game is becoming more of a passing game.

“So for a running back to have the speed that he has, the shiftiness, the ability to run between the tackles, but also the ability for you to stand him up and split him out and run routes with him, he creates an instant mismatch.

“I think that he’s going to be very valuable in terms of teams looking at his true worth and what he’s able to do.”

• On ND seventh-year head coach Brian Kelly: “I’ve been very, very impressed, because’ he’s been able to build a program that can last. Sometimes, you have one really good class, and once those kids become seniors, then you’ve got a good opportunity to win. But once they leave, then you start over.

“And I don’t think that’s the case. The key is for the program to be in the national championship discussion most every year, and coach Kelly has done that. To be quite honest, there were almost two decades where that wasn’t the case. So it’s been impressive to see.”

• On a time share at running back between Tarean Folston and Josh Adams: “I think kids understand that’s the game now. It’s a different style of offense, and thus you have very specialized running backs that you use in certain situations.”


Twitter: @EHansenNDI

Former Notre Dame All-American Jerome Bettis, here delivering his speech during an induction ceremony at the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Aug. 8, said the Irish need a clear-cut leader to emerge from the upcoming QB competition. (AP Photo/TOM E. PUSKAR)