Identity of Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson still developing
Who is Everett Golson, in the context of the Notre Dame football team?
Fans see a dynamic athlete who can cause as much damage with his legs as he can with his arm.
Irish coach Brian Kelly might even share that assessment.
But Golson’s perspective is different. The 6-foot, 200-pound senior quarterback puts himself in a different light. However, his improvised 15-yard scramble for a touchdown just before halftime against Purdue didn’t do anything to help his argument.
“You talk about the 15-yard run, I also missed a wide-open pass (on that play),” Golson said. “(The play) was good, as far as getting a touchdown; but I missed the pass. Things like that, I have to execute better.
“I want to be more of a pocket passer. That’s who I am. I didn’t run that much in high school. It’s kind of new to me, the (read-option) theory. I have to develop as a pocket passer who has the ability to run.”
Golson cringed at the comparison, but his image of himself is similar to that of Super Bowl champion quarterback Russell Wilson, of the Seattle Seahawks. He knows he doesn't belong in that stratosphere yet.
Kelly, however, recognizes that defenses are forcing Golson to run on a regular basis.
“It's pretty clear the way teams are playing us,” Kelly said. “We're getting a lot of six for five, six defenders for five blockers, and your quarterback has to be involved in the run game. If we're going to stay in our detached spread sets, the quarterback is going to have to be involved in the run game.
“There's probably four or five of those runs (against Purdue) that should have been passes, and there should have been four or five handoffs that should have been runs. We need to get better in the option game with Everett, as well. He'll still be central to what we do in the running game.”
Even though he was sacked four times, losing 18 yards, Golson still led the Irish with 56 net yards on 14 carries. His long run was that TD burst.
He threw a season-high 40 passes, completing 25 for 259 yards and touchdowns to Corey Robinson (15 yards) and Will Fuller (six). Golson hasn’t been intercepted this season.
Golson pointed to Notre Dame’s first possession of the second quarter as a point of frustration. The Irish, 14-of-14 in the red zone this season (10 touchdowns, four field goals), had to settle for a field goal after being first and goal from the Boilermaker 3.
“Anytime we get in the red zone, we want to convert with (a touchdown rather than a field goal),” Golson said. “I don’t think I played too (well).
“We didn’t play to the best of our ability (against Purdue). There are things we have to correct. We have to execute better; we have to communicate better.”
Shortly after that shortcoming, Golson rallied the troops on the sidelines. Notre Dame trailed for the first time all season, but Golson refused to allow panic to set in.
“We weren’t executing as we should,” said Fuller. “Everett brought us together and told us we needed to get going and execute.”
“I just tried to encourage (the offense); make sure everyone had a sound mind,” Golson said. “I was just making sure everybody was good, and they were. That’s what I liked about (the win over Purdue), we dealt with adversity. We did a good job keeping our heads up high.
“That’s just me understanding my role for this team.”
So ... what made Golson feel comfortable enough to take charge at such a critical point?
“It's been the journey that he's on and that journey started when he was a freshman,” Kelly said. “Obviously, when he got his opportunity to come back here (after missing last season because of an academic issue), he wanted to take control of his destiny on offense and that means be a leader.
“Since he's been here, he's gradually been more assertive every single day, and as he's become more comfortable with who he is; he's holding others accountable. He's clearly, I would say right now, he's more the vocal leader. He's got to do it more consistently. I would like to see him even more vocal at times, but he's definitely showing the signs of the leader on offense that we need.”
“I had confidence through it all,” Golson said. “I’m not saying this to be cocky, but there never was a point that I thought we were going to lose. I know everyone is looking at me. You can’t have that mindset; you can’t have any doubts at all.”
It doesn’t really matter how Golson plays the position. In the pocket as a threat to run? As an elusive dual-threat weapon?
As long as he continues to be that sort of leader, everything else will fall into place.
That’s the identity Golson needs to embrace.