Notre Dame’s improbable ride to the national championship game ended abruptly on Monday night in Miami. Alabama left no doubt as to who was the better team and sent Notre Dame back home to South Bend with a lot of questions to answer this off-season. Despite a rather disappointing ending to a season far exceeded even the most optimistic expectations for 2012, there is plenty of reason for hope as the Irish begin the long road back to getting back to the title game next season.
Notre Dame brings a lot of talent back next year and there are plenty of reasons to think that the Irish can make another run and end next season looking for some redemption in Pasadena, home of the Rose Bowl and site of 2014 National Championship game and it all starts under center.
1. Everett Golson
Think back to how far Everett Golson has come in just one year as a starting quarterback on the college level. Against Michigan Golson looked lost and overwhelmed prompting Brian Kelly to pull him in favor of Tommy Rees. Last night that wasn’t the case. Golson wasn’t at his absolute best but he didn’t look lost either and actually turned in a solid performance completing 21 of 36 for 270 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception. Golson just missed on a number of other throws early on as well that would have made the game much more interesting – throws that he will most likely make next year after a full off-season of being THE guy at quarterback for Notre Dame.
Golson has a bright, bright future ahead of him and is poised to make some huge strides in the off-season once he has a chance to digest everything that happened this year and work with Brian Kelly and Chuck Martin on taking his game to the next level. Kelly slowly loosened the reigns on Golson as the season progressed, but the training wheels are still on in some respects. Those wheels should come flying off next year as Golson takes charge of the team. As a first year starter with some strong leaders in place already, Golson couldn’t really make this his team. Notre Dame will be looking for leaders next year and Golson will have the opportunity to seize that role. If he is able to do that, we will see an offense that starts to resemble the high scoring units Kelly put on the field at his previous stops.
The Notre Dame offense in 2012 was adequate – it was just good enough for Notre Dame to pull off some too close for comfort victories. That should not be the case in 2013 with Golson leading the way. For the first time in the Kelly Era, we will head into a season with a clear #1 quarterback for spring and fall ball allowing Golson to get more snaps and Kelly and Martin to feed Golson more and more of the offense. In 2012 we saw a young quarterback grow up in front of us. In 2013, we are going to see that same quarterback elevate his game and turn the offense into a much more efficient and explosive unit.