Everett Golson 2.0 set to debut for Notre Dame

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND – Don’t let that cool, calm exterior give a false impression.

When Everett Golson runs through the tunnel for Saturday’s season-opener against Rice, he’s going to be wired.

Compared to the freshman quarterback Notre Dame football fans remember from 2012, this will be Everett Golson 2.0: A little broader in the chest, wiser in the mind and confident in the conviction.

“He’s been consistent,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said of Golson’s performance since winning the competition with Malik Zaire. “He’s been, as a quarterback, much more decisive. When I refer to ‘decisive,’ a quarterback has to believe what he sees and react accordingly.

“There is still room for growth in that position, but consistency, decisiveness, those are good words to use with the quarterback’s growth. I’ve seen that.

“As a leader, I could probably use the same thing relative to consistency. He’s consistently been that vocal leader on the offensive side of the ball. He’s consistently been very active in our Unity Council in terms of suggestions and asking questions and really integral to what we are doing offensively, both on and off the field.”

“(Leadership) is something you have in you,” Golson said. “For me, it was natural. I’m a natural leader. It was easy for me to fall into that role after everything I’ve been through.

“I think 2012 was different. I was just a freshman. We had Manti (Te’o). We had Zack (Martin). We had guys in that leadership role. It’s more prevalent now for me to step up and be in that leadership role.”

“He’s been engaging and taking what you would consider that ‘next step’ of leadership by his engagement,” Kelly said. “So that’s what I’ve seen over the last, you know, three, four weeks.”

So as the season unfolds, the most obvious difference fans will notice will be how the Notre Dame offense goes about its business.

Prepare to be entertained.

A fast-paced tempo will fuel a multi-pronged attack that should make folks forget last year’s plodding plan by the end of the first half.

“Two years ago, (the present pace of the offense) compares,” Golson said. “It’s tremendously fast. Two years ago, we didn’t run as near as fast a pace. It was more conservative, in a sense. Throw the ball down; run the ball.

“Now, we want to be aggressive on the offensive side.”

Part of being aggressive will be the inclusion of some new wrinkles in the Irish arsenal. Kelly finally has the personnel in place at quarterback and running back to run some zone-read option plays – tactics sure to give defenses fits.

“It’s like anything else, it’s a commitment,” Kelly said of adding that twist to the offense. “You have to commit to putting your quarterback out there. Then I think there are some schematic things that you have to do with your offensive line.

“If you’re a team that likes to gap block, if you want to block down and pull, and you’re committed to those types of things, then when you get into zone-read option, you’re doing some different things with your offensive line that you have to spend time on.

“It’s a give-take relationship when it comes to zone-read option. So, first of all, you have to be willing to put your quarterback out there, so the potential that he’s going to get hit. And, No. 2, there is a give-take as it relates to the time that you spend with schemes within the offensive line. We’re committed to it. We’re going to run it, and it will be part of what we do offensively.”

Golson just shrugged at the prospects of taking a hit, though it’s been about 600 days since he’s been dinged. The zone-read option is something he embraces. He has spent the spring and preseason perfecting the timing and approach.

“You have a quarterbacks coach in coach (Matt) LaFleur harping on everything you do,” Golson said. “Whether your hands are not out (far enough) or things like that. It’s repetition. I got comfortable with it after the spring, in the offseason.”

By Saturday afternoon, the wait will finally end. A year away from football has allowed Golson to mature, and at the same time develop an appetite for the competition.

“I’ve prepared a long time,” Golson said. “I’m excited to finally be out there with my guys.

“It’s what kept me going, just being out there with 10 other guys who are my brothers.

“(Football) means a lot more to me now (than it did as a freshman). I’ve had time to evaluate. I’ve had time to see different things being away from the game.

“It’s a different feeling (from two years ago). In 2012, I hadn’t done it before. That Ireland game (against Navy) was almost like a dream come true. I’m more mature now. I’m ready. We’ve prepared a long time for this moment.

“I was watching every game (last year) – being there, without being there. A lot of time I was in tune with the schemes they were running. I watched it from a different perspective.

“It was extremely difficult (to watch when the team struggled last year). Me, being the guy that I am, I put that on myself immediately. I had a support system around me that picked me up.

“I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be back here. It could have gone the other way.”

He’s got a lot to be excited about.

alesar@sbtinfo.com | 574-235-6318

Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson throws downfield during the Blue-Gold Game in April. (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)
Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson throws downfield during the Blue-Gold Game in April. (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)