Sophomore quarterback Everett Golson said he’s had visions of running out onto the Aviva Stadium turf in Ireland on Sept. 1 as Notre Dame’s starting quarterback. That dream is beginning to look more and more like reality.
Though a political head coach Brian Kelly explained that Golson and junior Andrew Hendrix are getting equal snaps, the popular opinion, especially after Wednesday’s open practice, is that Golson, clearly the fan favorite, is pulling away.
“I don’t really think too much like that,” Golson said after practice. “I’m just trying to go at it with all I got. You’ve got four quarterbacks that obviously want to be the starter at Notre Dame because it’s one of the greatest opportunities that you’ll ever have. We’re all definitely working towards it. I’m just doing my best.”
The 6-foot, 185-pounder from Myrtle Beach, S.C., is also doing his best to manage the massive amount of attention he’s receiving.
“It’s crazy. I don’t really know,” he said. “I guess it could be a little pressure. You’ve just got to go through it and just deal with it.”
What Golson, who passed for 1,770 yards and 25 touchdowns as a senior despite missing half the season due to injury, brings to the table is a tool belt Kelly’s spread construction project has been missing for two years. Throwing mechanics, most notably a trajectory that can be too low at times, were a primary focus over the summer and continue to be during fall camp. Developing a better grasp of the playbook is also a high priority. But there’s no denying that Golson is the most exciting option heading into 2012.
“The first five days have been good,” he said. “I’m seeing a lot of progression coming from the spring and now into [fall] camp.
Just the knowledge of the offense. That was one of the biggest things for me. Talking to Coach Kelly, he said that I had the art of it, but I need the science. That was one of my biggest things, just getting in the film room and just kind of be a better quarterback in that sense.
“It was very difficult [to put the art with the science]. With time and preparation, and with Coach [Chuck] Martin being there and Coach Kelly being there, it made it so much easier. It would have been a hard task for me to do it on my own. With those guys doing a great job, it’s a little bit easier for me.”
Golson came to Notre Dame hoping to get on the field right away. He said a season on the scout team ended up being a blessing.
“Coming in I was so anxious to play coming from a successful high school as we were,” he said. “You’re obviously always thinking that you’re ready to play, you’re ready to go in and battle for the starting position. Unfortunately it wasn’t that way, so me progressing now, I’ve seen a lot of change. Everything is kind of slowing down to me.”
And everyone seems to believe in him as well.
“I think that’s what you get … that’s really one of the key things that you get in offseason workouts — just showing the team and the guys around you that you’re going to work just as hard to accomplish the goal for them,” Golson added.
“Sitting out definitely helped me. I came in ready to compete for the starting spot. It kind of was like, wait a minute. It kind of made me step back a little bit and realize that maybe I have to mature a little bit more and show the guys that I’m a leader and can be the leader of the team. Last year I wasn’t really ready for that. That’s what going through the scout team procedure was — it just kind of humbled me so that I could get back to what I know how to do.”
What Golson does best has been a topic of debate since Notre Dame began recruiting him. Statistics say he’s a passer first. Perhaps racial stereotypes concerning black quarterbacks have made many believe that he’s more inclined to gain yardage on the ground. He believes he can do both at a high level.
“Yeah, but I don’t really think that’s a battle I can fight,” he said. “It kind of is what it is. I’m obviously looked at as a running quarterback, but I guess that works to my advantage, too, because a lot of people are not as prepared for the pass as they are for the run.
“I feel like it’s a balance. The main thing about me is I adapt well. If they’re dropping eight or dropping nine, I’m definitely going to sit in the pocket for a little bit, but I’m looking to take off. Until they bring down and start blitzing, then we’ll go over their heads with the pass.”
It’s also been an emotional balancing act in recent weeks for Golson, who watched good friend Tommy Rees go through a trying time. Because of an arrest on May 3 at an off-campus party, Rees was suspended for the season opener against Navy. The 16-game starter has quite a hill to climb if he wants to see the field again for the Fighting Irish. Golson and Rees are roommates during camp.
“Tommy was good,” Golson said. “I think that’s one of his things; he kind of knows, like I keep going back to, you can’t really show that you’re really down or that you’re too high. You’ve got to stay at that median. I think that’s what he did this whole time, which was just kind of stay levelheaded. When [the suspension] came out, it came out. He was still the same Tommy, being that helping hand for us and stuff.
“I thought that it would be a battle if it was all four of us. The fact that it opened up, it didn’t really change too much for me. I was still motivated to work and have the desire to be the starting quarterback.”