Just about every Irish fan wondered what the quarterbacks not on the field could do for the Irish last season. With the depth chart thrown into disarray after two quarters of football, a chorus of support erupted from all corners of ND nation, with calls for Rees, Crist, Hendrix and Golson heard amongst the shouting. With Crist graduated and set to play out his eligibility under former coach Charlie Weis at Kansas, and blue-chip quarterback Gunner Kiel brought in at the semester to replace him, four quarterbacks — each with a distinctly different flavor — will battle for another job that’s completely up in the air.
This time, however, Everett Golson will be in the mix.
Golson in many ways is the wild card in the competition. Gifted with a skill-set that sparkled during a record-setting prep career in South Carolina, Golson’s raw talent was on display during last year’s spring game, where he and Andrew Hendrix split time after cameos by Rees and Crist. The freshman showed elusiveness, a live arm, and a bewilderment that you’d expect from a early-enrollee freshman that should’ve been playing point guard for his high school basketball team, having some ball security problems but also making some impressive throws.
Now entering his second spring practice and his first shot at the starting quarterback job, Golson is legitimately one of the most intriguing stories in college football. Just ask friend-of-the-program Bruce Feldman, who said as much this week. In his weekly Top 10 list, Feldman listed Golson as the No. 1 most intriguing redshirt freshman in the country.
Here’s his rationale:
1, Everett Golson, Notre Dame, QB: Brian Kelly’s biggest headache in 2011 was due to shaky quarterback play. ND had some very capable weapons in Michael Floyd, Tyler Eifert and Cierre Wood, but the Irish were inept in the Red Zone and prone to momentum-crushing mistakes at the worst possible times. Tommy Rees started most of the season at QB and is back. So is Andrew Hendrix, a more mobile option with a stronger arm. Touted freshman Gunner Kiel is already on campus, but don’t underestimate Golson, a 5-11, 185-pounder from South Carolina. When we had Kelly on our Signing Day Central show a few weeks ago and the Notre Dame coach gushed when I asked him about Golson. You heard a completely different vibe from Kelly just as he started to describe the young QB who had led his high school to state championships in both football and basketball. While Golson does not have prototype size, he has a quick release, a strong arm and wonderful footwork. He also apparently has that presence about him that coaches love.
It’s doubtful any Irish fans have forgotten Golson, which might actually explain the somewhat muted enthusiasm that came from Gunner Kiel’s commitment, usually a “landed on the moon” type achievement in college recruiting. Sure, it’s hard to get too excited about prep highlights supplied by YouTube. But the addition of Chuck Martin as offensive coordinator, teamed with the move of Tony Alford to a hybrid coaching position working with both running backs and slot receivers, and you can’t help but feel like the stars are aligning for Golson, if only he can take advantage.
Upping Feldman’s cred, from his post at ESPN last spring, he pegged Louis Nix among his top ten redshirt freshmen, and I think it’s fair to say that Nix lived up to the billing. (Nix checked in at No. 7.) If Golson manages to earn the headline Feldman bestowed on him, needless to say Irish fans will be happy.
As we see spring practice in the horizon, it reminds me of the old Chinese proverb, “May you live in interesting times.” With four quarterbacks likely capable of being a starting quarterback at Notre Dame, we may have already surpassed interesting.