Malik Zaire did Everett Golson a favor. The sophomore quarterback’s hunger for a starting job — and his willingness to talk about it — took the spotlight off the Irish quarterback that spent the last year under a microscope.
After entering spring practice as one of the college football world’s biggest stories, Golson’s return to South Bend and life as a student-athlete and quarterback has been fairly anonymous. He’s said all the right things in media sessions. Our brief looks at practice showed him every bit as competent on the field as he did leading the Irish to the BCS title game in 2012.
But Saturday’s Blue-Gold game will give us our first look at Golson in a competitive situation. While he’ll likely be the most untouchable player on the field, the receivers he’ll be throwing to aren’t, and it’ll be the first (pseudo) game experience he’s faced since that fateful January evening against Alabama.
Outside of shaking off the rust, Golson’s performance will also be a progress report as he absorbs some considerable tweaks to the offense. After playing a risk averse, run and tight end heavy package in 2012, Golson will be asked to run a completely different system.
“What we’re doing offensively, this year is new math for him,” Brian Kelly said last week. “I knew there was going to be a learning curve there, and I think he’s making really good progress from that standpoint. So he’s met those expectations.”
For as heralded as the year away made Golson, there’s plenty of work to do. In 2012, Golson was the 62nd ranked passer in the country, about as middle-of-the-road as you get. While he made steady progress as the season continued, he laid a massive egg against Michigan, and was largely unproductive against Michigan State and Stanford, two games the defense carried.
Brian VanGorder’s unit isn’t going to will the Irish to victory like the 2012 defense did. And that meana Golson needs to enter the season ready to lead both the team and the offense, not be just another guy in the huddle.
“We’re trying to run as much 11-on-11 real football in our spring as possible, because our quarterbacks need that,” Kelly said. “They’ve got to be able to take control of the offense, and we’re trying to put them in as much of a control position, if you will.
“Those are the things he needs to work on. He wasn’t very good at them in his first year here. That’s where I think he’s making some progress.”
We’ll get our first extended look on Saturday.