Notre Dame preview: Everett Golson getting the QB spot down to a science
By Mark Lazerus 648-3140 or firstname.lastname@example.org August 26, 2012 12:06AM
Date Opponent Time, TV
Sept. 1 vs. Navy (at Dublin) 8 a.m., CBS
Sept. 8 Purdue 2:30 p.m., NBC
Sept. 15 at Michigan State 7 p.m., ABC
Sept. 22 Michigan 6:30 p.m., NBC
Oct. 6 Miami (at Chicago) 6:30 p.m., NBC
Oct. 13 Stanford 2:30 p.m., NBC
Oct. 20 Brigham Young 2:30 p.m., NBC
Oct. 27 at Oklahoma TBD
Nov. 3 Pittsburgh 2:30 p.m., NBC
Nov. 10 at Boston College TBA
Nov. 17 Wake Forest 2:30 p.m., NBC
Nov. 24 at USC TBA, ABC/ESPN
Updated: September 27, 2012 11:33AM
SOUTH BEND — Worried? Nah, Everett Golson wasn’t worried. Why would he be? Everything had always come so easily, so naturally, to him. Hyper-talented guys like Golson — guys who throw 151 touchdown passes in high school, who play in state championship games in football and basketball, who can play full songs on the piano by ear without even being able to read sheet music — can handle anything, right?
So sure, Golson figured he would compete for Notre Dame’s starting quarterback job as a true freshman last year. And sure, he was ready for the athletic and academic demands of Notre Dame.
But he couldn’t. And he wasn’t.
By midseason, Golson found himself buried on the scout team, running other teams’ offenses, not Notre Dame’s. On top of that, he was struggling with his classwork, with dorm life and the difficult transition from kid to adult that every college student — from football players to philopsophy majors — faces.
“It was like everything was moving 100 miles per hour,” Golson said.
Ironic, because that’s always been Golson’s style. He plays fast, runs fast, acts fast. His improvisational skills made him one of the most prolific quarterbacks in high school history.
But as Golson quickly learned, Notre Dame isn’t Myrtle Beach High. And major college football isn’t the South Carolina High School League. It takes more than sheer talent at this level. It takes a lot of preparation, a lot of studying, and a whole lot of hard work.
Or, as Golson likes to put it, he had the art of playing quarterback. He needed to learn the science.
Well, class is over. Now it’s time for the experiment to begin.
Golson, now a redshirt freshman, will start at quarterback on Saturday when the Irish open their season in Ireland against Navy — without a single college snap to his credit. A tremendous talent and a tremendous unknown, he now has a chance to take control of a program desperately in need of some stability at the position — Kelly went through three quarterbacks last year alone — and desperately in need of a spark to return it to national prominence against arguably the toughest schedule in the nation.
“I had dreams about it,” Golson said. “Seeing visions of it. Just me being out there, the crowd and everything. That’s what motivates me to keep going, to keep driving and learn as much as I can.”
It began with his humbling freshman year. He said he realized he wasn’t mature enough to be a leader of men, and getting shunted down to the scout team gave him a new perspective. Standing on the sidelines, he watched Dayne Crist, Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix, and learned how to handle himself.
In the spring, he took a big leap on the football field, throwing two touchdowns without an interception in the spring game. And in the summer, he took a big leap in the classroom, where he learned to prioritize better and bump up his grades, all while working on the science of quarterbacking — both with teammates in South Bend, and with former teammates back home in South Carolina.
Last year, he said he wasn’t worried about ball security. This hear, it’s a focal point, with only three interceptions throughout camp. Last year, he said he was overlooking the little things and struggling with even getting the plays from the sidelines. This year, it’s all about attention to detail.
Last year, he was an athlete. This year, he’s a quarterback.
“Just the knowledge of the offense,” Golson said when asked what’s changed between last year and this one. “Getting in the film room, getting my mechanics down, being a better quarterback from that sense. It was very difficult. But with time and preparation, and with Coach Kelly and (offensive coordinator Chuck) Martin being there, it made it so much easier. It would have been a hard task to get by on my own.”
When training camp began earlier this month, Golson was the one taking the first-team snaps on the strength of his spring game effort. He never relinquished them.
“I think it was the individual meetings during spring, how he handled his academics in the summer and all those little things,” Kelly said. “He’s built trust along the way. And you build trust every day in camp.”
Now Kelly is entrusting him with the offense he designed — an offense built for a player like Golson, a player with a big arm who can also run.
Of course, he’s entirely unproven. And he still has a reputation (based on what little anyone’s actually seen of him) as being a run-first, pass-second player — a reputation he’s been working hard to shed.
“I don’t think that’s a battle I can fight; it kind of is what it is,” Golson said.
Not that he won’t try.
“When I came in, you could see in the spring game I was a little amateurish,” Golson said. “I’m always running out of the pocket to rely on my athleticism. I need to become a more complete quarterback, stay in the pocket and read the defenses.”
In other words, rely a little less on those improvisational skills — the art, as he says — that got him here, and rely a little more on the science that can keep him here.