Notre Dame football: Kelly expects better QB when Golson returns

ERIC HANSEN
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND - Somewhere in the mounds of sound bites Brian Kelly produced during his recent promotional tour for Vizio’s BCS Fan Throwdown contest, Kelly threw down the idea how the quarterback’s role in college football was even more all-encompassing than ever before.

A glance at the current pass-efficiency ratings only reinforces the notion that the big numbers there can enhance the traditional run offense/run defense metrics that typically predict success and even cover up for some deficiencies there.

Florida State, Baylor, LSU, Louisville and Texas A&M comprise the top 5. The only unranked team in the top 10 is the 9-3 Bowling Green squad that smacked around previously unbeaten Northern Illinois in the MAC title game on Friday night. You have to get to No. 33 in the pass-efficiency rankings before you land on a team (Indiana) with a losing record. The Irish stand outside of the top 50 for the fourth straight season under Kelly, this time at 54.

All of which feeds into why there’s such a fixation on a player who won’t play in No. 25 Notre Dame’s Dec. 28 date with Rutgers in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl — Everett Golson.

The exiled junior quarterback is expected to be reinstated from a season-long suspension as a student at Notre Dame next week and as a football player on Dec. 20, when first-semester exams end. But Kelly, who initially planned to have Golson practice with the team, confirmed Sunday that won’t happen.

Golson’s true reintegration will take place in the weight room and in informal workouts this winter, presumably, as the 2012 starter looks to reassert himself. He’s been visible but non-intrusive during his time away, spending much of his fall with renowned private quarterback tutor George Whitfield Jr., in San Diego while senior Tommy Rees — the player Golson displaced as the starter in 2012 — elevated into ND’s starting lineup.

Whitfield, who believes Golson will someday play in the NFL, was credited with a dramatic transformation of Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel before the then-redshirt freshmen’s Heisman run in 2012.

Can Kelly expect a transformed Golson?

“I think we're going to get a young man that is going to be a better quarterback, not because of necessarily what George did, though certainly George is very accomplished,” Kelly said Sunday after ND’s first bowl practice.

“I don't want to diminish what (Whitfield) can do, how he can help. (But) I think we're going to get a better person and someone that's even more committed. He's going to be so much more committed to being a better student, more committed to everything that he does.

“I think that's going to be a better quarterback at Notre Dame. I can't see a scenario for him not being better at the quarterback position because of that.”

Golson threw for 2,405 yards completing 58.8 percent of his passes with 12 TDs and six interceptions during ND’s run to the BCS National Championship Game last season. His career interception-to-attempt ratio is the lowest in school history. Golson also rushed for 298 yards — fourth-best on the team — on 94 carries for a 3.2 average. He scored six rushing TDs.

Golson slid off the roster in late May because of academic misconduct, which he later clarified to Sports Illustrated as cheating on a test.

Kelly said it’s possible Golson will spend some time in New York with the team, since the player has plans to visit his girlfriend there.

“We'll make sure we get that vetted through our compliance before I'm quoted as saying without question,” Kelly said. “We're assuming that he's readmitted.”

Kelly said he’ll travel to meet Golson at his parents’ home in Myrtle Beach, S.C. on Monday to get a better feel for what the quarterback’s plans are prior to re-starting classes in mid-January.

“I thought he initially handled it very well,” Kelly said of Golson’s time away from ND. “His comments were right on, in my estimation. I think he took full responsibility for his actions, didn't back away from them.

“I think his follow up, which I had no idea he was going to be doing an interview with Sports Illustrated, I thought his comments were forthright. Quite frankly, I thought maybe a little bit too revealing. He talked about some things that I probably wouldn't have talked about.

“But I think he took it straight on and never backed away from coming back to Notre Dame, wanting to be back here. I think he's been a stand up guy in this whole process.”

Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson's return to the football team will be one of the main storylines of spring practice. (SBT Photo/James Brosher)