Published: Aug 04, 2012 4:39 PM EDT
Updated: Aug 05, 2012 6:32 AM EDT

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - For what it's worth, Everett Golson took the first set of snaps at Notre Dame's first preseason practice.

The sophomore is one of three quarterbacks - along with Andrew Hendrix and freshman Gunner Kiel - competing to start the start the opener in Dublin, Ireland, against Navy on Sept. 1.

Before breaking off into position drills Saturday, the offense moved down the field on two no-huddle series of pass plays.

Golson took the first set of snaps, followed by Hendrix. Coach Brian Kelly said Golson was first because the coaching staff felt he had the best spring game.

"Andrew had a really good practice today, so there's a chance he could be the first tomorrow," Kelly said. "I think that's kind of where we are right now, we're so close with those guys. Our rotation today was just one day. I told our quarterbacks in the meeting that it's going to take some time to start to sense and feel where there might be a separation. Any preconceived notion of one guy being ahead of the other, I think in my mind has been alleviated. I think they've all made - the three that can compete for the starting position - have all made significant progress, so this should be fun."

The competition narrowed to four after Tommy Rees, last year's starter, was suspended one game for being arrested this summer on an underage drinking charge.

Kelly said he will be devoting more practice time to the full offense scrimmaging the full defense. He said he hopes the change will help him find starters throughout an offense that lacks experience in some key positions

"Wide receivers, tight ends, running backs, the quarterback," Kelly said. "As you know we've got a number of those guys we need to sort out and give them a lot of reps, so today was different than maybe the last few years."

The change is just fine with fifth-year senior wide-receiver John Goodman.

"We like going against each other and competing," Goodman said. "It gets you in game mode more. 7-on-7 isn't real football, where the linebackers are dropping back, knowing it's a pass. There's a lot more competition and you get to make a lot more reads. It's real football."

Senior tight end Tyler Eifert, expected to be a key playmaker with the departure of Michael Floyd to the NFL, agreed.

"11-on-11 is really the only time you go full speed, so having those live reps where you're getting into the flow and the speed of the game, it's hard to symbolize game speed because it's so fast," Eifert said. "11-on-11, you go 1's against 1's, 2's against 2's, it's the way to do it."

Also new this season, Kelly said, is his more "hands-on" approach. He started in January by scheduling informal meetings each Monday with players. On Saturday he was on the field leading the quarterback drills.

"I've put an emphasis on spending more time with the players and getting to know them, and letting them get to know me better than just sitting up in an office. that's where the head coach of Notre Dame sits," Kelly said. "I've never been that kind of coach, and I felt myself sliding toward that in my first couple of years."

Kelly said being the coach at Notre Dame "has a tendency to distract you a little bit."

"I just need to be involved. I need to coach. I need to be in the trenches. I need to be the effective leader. Some are better from sitting up on the tower, and some are better being hands on. I need to be a better head coach and that's where my strengths are, and I'm going to them."