Even without guarantee, Kelly expects Golson to return next season

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Brian Kelly can’t be sure that Everett Golson will be here in 2015. But after 25 years of coaching college football, Notre Dame’s head coach feels like Golson’s actions are speaking for themselves.

“I couldn’t tell you for certain,” Kelly acknowledged, when asked point-blank if he knew if Golson was going to be back with the team after he earned his diploma.

That’s life with the NCAA’s graduate transfer rule—a rare moment when the student-athlete holds all the cards. But with the Irish entering their final week of spring practice, Kelly leans on what he’s seeing from his veteran quarterback that makes him believe he’ll finish his college career in South Bend.

“He’s had his best spring since he’s been here,” Kelly said. “He’s fully engaged in everything that he’s doing. It’s the best that I’ve seen him do the things that we’ve asked him to do since he’s been here.”

Golson hasn’t made any public comment about his future. That’s by design and something Kelly has supported, keeping him away from media availability this spring so he can focus on a full load of football and academics.

And it’s that effort, both on and off the field, that makes Kelly believe he’ll have Golson in the program—and out front—come the all important summer months.

“It’s like anything else, if you’re half in, you kind of see it,” Kelly continued. “Listen, I’m not shocked by anything that 18-to-21-year-olds do, I’ve been in this business too long. But there’s no indication that anything he’s done would mean he’s just doing this as a way to go somewhere else. If I sensed it at all, I’d have pulled the plug on it myself, because we’re wasting our time.”

That may be the most important part of all of this. Kelly as the head of Notre Dame’s football program wouldn’t have allowed Golson to continue to take reps and take snaps from Malik Zaire if he didn’t believe Golson was going to stick around and work to be a part of this team.

This isn’t the first time Kelly has said this. He said it in the run-up to the Music City Bowl, where he made it clear that Zaire was going to start and Golson was going to have to earn back playing time.

Some thought that was merely coachspeak. But this is a head coach who let Aaron Lynch walk away from this team—never begging him to come back. Kelly did the same thing when Gunner Kiel wanted out, letting the five-star quarterback transfer with little hesitation.

Kelly never blinked when Golson was ripped from the program before the 2013 season. Nor did he once complain about losing his star cornerback and best wide receiver, along with his starting defensive end and two other defensive contributors in the days leading up to last season.

That’s life in college football. So with little guarantee of anything, Kelly moves forward with the hopes that Golson is part of this program, knowing what’s at stake for all involved.

“I think I have a pretty good sense of people and situations,” Kelly said. “I’m not going to jeopardize our program, our staff, our livelihood, what we do, if someone’s not bought in and 100 percent committed.”