Everett Golson

The spotlight is back on Golson


When Brian Kelly meets with the media tomorrow, we expect to hear that quarterback Everett Golson is cleared and ready for Oklahoma. The sophomore quarterback, who left the Stanford game after taking a helmet-to-helmet blow, sat out Saturday for precautionary reasons, leaving the Irish offense to Tommy Rees (and a sprinkle of Andrew Hendrix) as Notre Dame snuck by BYU 17-14. And with Golson back as the team’s No. 1 quarterback, all the young signal-caller needs to do is march into Owen Field and beat one of the best teams in the country.

No problem, right?

In Golson, Notre Dame has its quarterback of the future. But to get out of Saturday with their undefeated season alive, they’ll need their sophomore quarterback to play beyond his years, and rebound from the struggles that have plagued him during his debut season.

Let’s start with the bad news. Golson has certainly made progress behind the scenes, with Kelly praising his sophomore quarterback’s commitment to becoming a compete quarterback and learning through every rep and minute in the film room. Yet that evolution hasn’t necessarily been evident on the field. Golson’s best days have been against the team’s worst opponents. Against Navy, he looked sharp — completing 66 percent of his passes and managing the game. He improved against Purdue, throwing for a season-high 289 yards before some late struggles and a critical fumble forced Brian Kelly to bring in Tommy Rees for the game’s final two-minute drill. Golson put up nice enough statistics against Miami as well, completing 17 of 22 throws against the Hurricanes, his best accuracy of the season, but showed some immaturity when he rolled in late to a meeting in Chicago, forcing Kelly to pull the young quarterback from the starting lineup.

Against the three top defenses he faced, Golson didn’t complete better than 50 percent of his passes. Against the Spartans, that efficiency was enough, as he limited the turnovers and took advantage of one-on-one match-ups in the secondary. Against Michigan, the moment got away from him, throwing two interceptions in eight passes, looking frazzled and showing bad decision making before he was yanked. And against Stanford, Golson struggled mightily before fighting back on his final series, his best plays of the afternoon were the ones leading up to the concussion that ended his day. In retrospect, sitting Golson against BYU — a team currently ranked No. 4 in the country in total defense — was a smart decision. He could learn while watching Tommy Rees, especially after having his prep time cut in half.

But as Golson starts the second half of his rookie season, there’s reason to believe he’ll be capable of playing his best football when the Irish need him. He’ll have a running game to rely on, as the Irish ground attack is peaking after gashing BYU for 270 yards, over 200 yards more than their season average. He’ll have a revitalized Tyler Eifert, who reminded Golson that No. 80 is an awfully nice weapon if he chooses to throw that way. And he’ll have his athleticism, a set of legs that’ll keep him out of trouble and keep Oklahoma’s defense honest as they try to keep the young quarterback in check.

“When there isn’t anything there, he has a knack for breaking tackle or making somebody miss him and runs around so he can buy extra time and scramble and wait for someone to work open or take off and run it himself,” Sooners head coach Bob Stoops said Monday. “He’s got excellent feet that way.”

Combining Golson’s athleticism with defensive coordinator Mike Stoops‘ commitment to simplifying a defense that had the Sooners thinking too much and Golson might have his best chance to simply see what the defense gives him and react, something the Irish have hoped would happen as the young quarterback got more comfortable.

The younger Stoops, returning to Oklahoma after a stint as the head coach at Arizona, had a telling comment for the media a few weeks ago when the Sooners figured out how to stop Texas.

“I think the more multiple offenses get, the more simplistic you need to get,” Stoops said of his defense. “I think that’s a unique concept.”

It’s also a concept that should apply Saturday as the Irish continue to parade different personnel onto the field, mixing and matching tight ends, wide receivers, multiple running backs, and two quarterbacks.

“We are more simple so there’s less chance to blow it ourselves,” Bob Stoops said.

It’s a maxim that Notre Dame’s head coach might consider taking to heart this weekend.


Kizer named MVP at annual ECHOES awards

@NDFootball Twitter

DeShone Kizer was named the Monogram Club’s Most Valuable Player for the 2016 season at the 96th annual Notre Dame football awards banquet. Kizer was voted team MVP by his teammates, after throwing for 2,925 yards and 26 touchdowns and rushing for 472 yards and eight scores.

He was one of 15 players honored with an award at the “ECHOES,” with the following accolades being given:

Equanimeous St. Brown, Offensive Player of the Year.
James Onwualu, Defensive Player of the Year
Greer Martini, Next Man In award
Drue Tranquill, Rockne Student-Athlete Award
Cole Luke, Nick Pietrosante Award
Isaac Rochell, Lineman of the Year
Quenton Nelson, Offensive Lineman of the Year
Scott Daly, Special Teams Player of the Year
Alex Bars, Newcomer of the Year, Offense
Nyles Morgan, Newcomer of the Year, Defense
Ben Stuttman, Scout Team Player of the Year, Offense
Jonathan Jones, Scout Team Player of the Year, Defense
Mark Harrell, Father Lange Iron Cross
Tyler Newsome, Irish Around the Bend



Notre Dame names 7 captains for 2017 team

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 17: Quenton Nelson #56 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates after a 10-yard touchdown reception by Corey Robinson against the USC Trojans in the fourth quarter of the game at Notre Dame Stadium on October 17, 2015 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Notre Dame named seven captains for the 2017 season, the most to wear the ‘C’ in school history. Quarterback DeShone Kizer, linebackers Greer Martini and Nyles Morgan, offensive linemen Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson, safety Drue Tranquill and walk-on receiver Austin Webster were all given the honor.

McGlinchey returns in the role, the 22nd different two-time captain in the program’s history. New to the job are the rest, including Kizer, who has yet to make a decision on if he’ll return for 2017 yet.

After worries about the team’s leadership heading into the 2016, the naming of captains in the immediate aftermath of the season is a change—Brian Kelly not naming his team’s official leaders into August training camp last year. It’s not an unprecedented move for Kelly (he named Harrison Smith and Michael Floyd team captains at the banquet following the 2010 season), though it points to some changes—some subtle, others not—that’ll likely take hold after a four-loss season.

Webster, a rising senior reserve wide receiver from California who has yet to register a stat in a Notre Dame uniform, made his debut as a sophomore in 2015 against UMass, is the first active walk-on to receive the honor.


Irish land blue-chip OL Aaron Banks

Tom Loy, Irish 247

Notre Dame received the commitment of 4-star offensive tackle Aaron Banks on Friday afternoon. Picking the Irish over a national offer list that included Michigan, Tennessee, and local programs USC and UCLA, the 6-foot-7, 335-pound Banks reminded all that even if the Irish only won four games this season, Harry Hiestand is still one of the premier offensive line coaches in the country.

Banks made the commitment from a ceremony at his high school in El Cerrito, California. And when he picked the Irish, he added to Notre Dame’s impressive offensive line haul, joining Dillan Gibbons, Joshua Lugg and Robert Hainsey — a key piece of the puzzle moving forward.

Banks is a consensus 4-star recruit and a Top 200 prospect. He took an official visit to Michigan in November, but has been a long-time target of Hiestand’s, visiting South Bend in September and welcoming Brian Kelly and Hiestand into his home after the USC game.

As a big recruiting weekend gets started at Notre Dame, the annual Echoes Awards will serve as the beginning of an important home stretch for a program without a bowl game. As Kelly still looks to lock in a defensive coordinator, not to mention other staff changes still in the air, Banks takes back some of the lost momentum, a key commitment heading into a holiday dead period before a furious finish leading into the first Wednesday in February.

Banks is No. 18 in the Irish recruiting class. He’s an early-enrollee, ready to hit campus within weeks and compete on the interior of the offensive line during spring ball.

Zaire says thank you to Notre Dame

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - SEPTEMBER 12: Quarterback Malik Zaire #8 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish rushes past defensive end Mike Moore #32 of the Virginia Cavaliers in the third quarter at Scott Stadium on September 12, 2015 in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish won, 34-27. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Big week for The Observer. Not just for its advertising revenues, but for the classy gesture that outgoing senior quarterback Malik Zaire made this week.

Thursday’s edition included a letter to the editor from Zaire, who took to the student newspaper not to make headlines around the internet, but rather to thank the university for his experience in South Bend.

While Zaire’s time at Notre Dame is drawing to a close, he will leave as a proud alum. So while he’ll play football next season at another university, Zaire wrote the following in Thursday’s issue:

Dear Notre Dame students and staff,

My life changed for the better the moment I stepped onto the University of Notre Dame’s beautiful campus. The one goal I had set in my mind to achieve was to become a better man, a Notre Dame man. After growing through many trials and triumphs, the thing I’ve learned most from my experience was that if you don’t believe in yourself first, then no one else will. I believed in becoming a better man and succeeding through any circumstance, and I can say that I’ve truly accomplished that. I often refer to the famous quote from the movie “Catch Me If You Can” that was well put by Frank Abagnale:

“Two little mice fell in a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned. The second mouse wouldn’t quit. He struggled so hard that eventually he churned that cream into butter and crawled out.”

I’ve put my heart, soul and passion into the University, the football program, the South Bend community and the Irish community worldwide. I have the unbelievable honor to represent this University to the fullest as a student and soon-to-be alumni. Thank you to the amazing students and staff that I’ve met through the years for helping me grow into the person I’ve always wanted to be. I love the Irish and will always be an Irish alum no matter where I go! I look forward to keeping in touch. Let’s change the world!

Go Irish!

Malik Zaire

Dec. 7

Zaire is expected to compete for a starting quarterback job next year as a graduate transfer. He’s reportedly taken a visit to Wisconsin and plans to visit North Carolina as well, just two of several programs on the radar as Zaire looks to step in and win a starting Power 5 job.