Jul 4, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
For all the thousands of words dedicated to Everett Golson‘s comeback, few have talked about the fact that he’s still very much a quarterback in progress. Injuries truncated a 2012 season that kept him completely out of one game and stole portions of others. A redshirt and academic impropriety took away two other season.
That’s all the football Golson has played since his record-setting prep career in South Carolina. Portions of 12 games in the last three years. So while the Irish faithful are counting on Golson to play the role of savior for the 2014 Irish, Brian Kelly is depending on another installation of the offense this summer to get the under-utilized senior up to speed.
After doing everything asked of him in his season away from campus and looking the part of a heroic prodigal son returning, now comes the fun part: Seeing if Golson can do it.
Let’s take a closer look at Everett Golson.
6’0″, 200 lbs.
Senior, No. 5
Notre Dame came into the game late with Golson, helping the quarterback walk away from a commitment to North Carolina to pick the Irish over the Tar Heels, Florida, Georgia, Michigan and Ohio State. Those offers are better than the three-star ranking Rivals gave him, and it was clear Kelly and the Irish staff were enthralled with Golson, the first prototype quarterback Kelly had recruited to his staff.
After enrolling early, here’s what Kelly said about landing Golson on Signing Day.
“He was a player that we felt was a great fit for what we want to do offensively. I think you’ll see that,” Kelly said. “Where we tried to distinguish the quarterback position is we didn’t want a guy that at first sight of any problems would drop his eyes and run. Here’s a guy that keeps his eyes up and is always looking downfield to make a play. That’s extending the play. He extends the play and delivers the football as well as anybody that we had watched. And I think you’ll see that in the way he plays the game.”
While Golson saw the field in the Blue-Gold game, he didn’t for any of his freshman season in 2011, with Tommy Rees taking the starting job from Dayne Crist at halftime of the opener.
Freshman Season (2011): Did not play. Saved a year of eligibility.
Sophomore Season (2012): Led Notre Dame to the BCS title game, starting 11 games while appearing in 12 (he missed the BYU game with a head injury). Was the first quarterback in team history to beat two Top 10-ranked foes on the road.
Completely 58.8 percent of his throws for 12 touchdowns and six interceptions, while also adding six rushing touchdowns to lead the Irish. Joined Joe Theismann and Jarious Jackson as the only quarterbacks in Irish history to throw for 2,000 yards and run for 300 yards in the same season.
Junior Season (2013): An academic honor code violation expelled Golson for the fall semester. He lost the year of eligibility.
There is still plenty of this for Golson, though he’ll need to make up for the missed year of development. That’s the shame of a lost 2013, keeping Golson from taking strides after a successful 2012 season that had him do some athletically gifted things while also successfully managing the football game.
From a pure upside potential point of view, Golson isn’t the biggest quarterback and he’s not the fastest, either. He’s not going to light up a stopwatch and run a 4.5, and at six-foot in two-inch cleats (at best) he’s not going to turn NFL scouts’ heads as a physical specimen.
But saying all that, he’s still the most intriguing offensive weapon on the Irish roster. At his best (where we briefly saw him in 2012), he’s the perfect trigger man for Kelly’s offense. He’s got an arm that can challenge any defense vertically, while also showing the mobility and nimbleness that can pick up a first down with his feet.
In many ways, Golson is the perfect quarterback at Notre Dame from an earlier era. Athleticism and competitiveness aren’t a question, even if they play better on Saturdays than Sunday.
If Golson can get through Michigan without losing a game, it’s going to be interesting to see just how good the Irish offense gets. Because the supporting cast is the best of the Kelly era, and gives Golson gifted running backs and receivers, even if the pass-catchers are still a bit raw.
Golson will still be susceptible to scheme — with defensive coordinators likely game-planning for him now in a way they didn’t as a redshirt freshman. But armed with a bigger playbook and the ability to share the load with a competent running game and receiver depth, Golson should be able to take advantage of his point guard roots, serving as a true facilitator in the Irish offense.
How good can his stats be? After watching Kelly’s quarterbacks underwhelm these past four seasons, a big statistical year could be just what the Irish offense ordered, especially when it comes to equalizing a youthful defense. Whether it’s playing at pace or just fundamentally sound football, Golson’s now the face of the Irish football program.
And now he’s got to prove he can live up to the reputation.
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