Brian Kelly ended months of speculation on Thursday night by naming sophomore Everett Golson the starting quarterback for Notre Dame in 2012. The athletically gifted South Carolina native edged out suspended, incumbent starter Tommy Rees, junior Andrew Hendrix, and true freshman Gunner Kiel to gain the starting nod.
Since the start of fall camp, it has been rumored that Golson was going to be the guy for Notre Dame at quarterback when the Irish travel to Dublin next week – especially with Rees suspended for the first game of the season due to his off-season arrest. Thursday Kelly put and end to the rumors and named Golson his starting quarterback.
“We have,” Brian Kelly answered on Thursday when asked if he named a starter. “It’s Everett Golson. He’ll be our starter.” When asked what led Kelly to make that decision he answered, “A lot of practice, lots of evaluation, lots of film. He won the job. Andrew did a great job and made great improvement. Really pleased with the progress of both those young men.”
Kelly admitted that it was a good competition, but that Golson did separate himself this summer, “It was a tough decision, but Everett clearly won the starting job and he’ll be the starter against Navy.”
With Golson set as the starter, the plan heading into the season is to use a single quarterback system and not any sort of multiple quarterback package. “Everett’s the starter and if things go the way we’re planning it, he’ll play the whole game,” Kelly said when asked if he planned on playing multiple quarterbacks.
For the Notre Dame offense to start to resemble the high powered offenses Brian Kelly put on the field while he was at Cincinnati, there really was no other choice than to roll the dice with the taleneted, yet unproven sophomore. Golson has the best combination of arm strength, speed, athleticism, and accuracy of all of the Notre Dame quarterbacks and will force opposing defenses to alter their game plans due to his ability to run the football.
With Tommy Rees and to a lesser extent Dayne Crist last year, Kelly simply couldn’t run the full compliment of his playbook because neither were particularly gifted runners. Crist had some decent wheels but knee injuries limited his mobility some and Rees could never be accused of being fleet of foot. Golson, however, allows Kelly to call many more designed quarterback runs and option plays which he can then run some play action off of to really keep a defense unbalanced.
Golson’s athleticism while also allow for him to extend plays which, when combined with a more than solid offense line that should already provide him enough time to pass, will give a group of inexperienced wide receivers trying to replace Michael Floyd more time to get open.
It became evident in the spring already that the arrow was point up with Golson to steal a line from former head coach Charlie Weis. In the Blue Gold game, Golson completed 11 of 15 passes for 2 touchdowns and despite 2 fumbles, he clearly looked like the best quarterback on the field that day. Those two fumbles are the byproduct of playing an inexperience quarterback, however, and are something Notre Dame fans are going to have to live with from time to time.
Due to Golson’s youth and his ability to live off of athleticism alone on the high school level, the toughest challenge for him early on will be learning to play within himself and live to fight another down. As a fan of aNFL team with a mobile quarterback, it’s a lesson that some quarterbacks never learn. If Kelly can harnnass Golson’s raw talents and channel them into an efficient quarterback that doesn’t turn the ball over, he and Notre Dame could have the makings of a very special player.
Notre Dame hasn’t had a quarterback with Golson’s overall skillset probably since Tony Rice, a fellow South Carolina native. Kevin MacDougal and Jarious Jackson were both highly mobile quarterbacks but neither quite had Golson’s escapability. Carlyle Holiday and Arnaz Battle both actually come to mind in terms of matching Golson’s raw athleticism, but neither last very long at the quarterback position so let’s hope the comparisons end there.
While Kelly has named Golson his starter for the season, if there is anything we learned last year, it’s that Kelly can have a short leash with his quarterbacks. Just about this time last year Kelly named Dayne Crist his starting quarterback for the 2011 season and by half time of the season opener, Crist was on the sideline in favor of Tommy Rees – a place in which he stayed for the rest of the season.
Considering Golson is just a true sophomore who did not see the field as a freshman a year ago, one would think that he will have a longer leash than Crist, a senior at the time, did. Golson will also benefit from facing a couple of defenses in weeks 1 and 2 that are not overly imposing in Navy and Purdue.