Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson will soon enter the Heisman discussion as early as next season.
The young leader of this Irish football team may not be one of the favorites entering the new season, but he will have a say before the season is over and done with.
I know, the last thing Notre Dame fans are thinking about at the moment is a Heisman Trophy for a season that hasn't even begun yet. A national championship against Alabama is what folks in South Bend have their mind wrapped around. But the big game against the Crimson Tide will also help play into the possible Heisman campaign for next year.
You can have all of the favorites for the award, but Golson will be in the conversation soon enough.
The National Championship Exposure
The first trick to winning the Heisman is getting the college football world and the media on your side. It is nearly impossible to win the award if very few people know your name entering the season, unless you have a year for the books like Johnny Manziel.
There are many who know Golson's name because he is the starter for Notre Dame, one of the most prestigious and covered schools in the nation. But he hasn't yet developed into a household name because it is his first season, and he hasn't quite had that breakthrough moment to show that he has arrived.
This is where the national championship comes into play. Golson is going to be talked about for the next month, and the biggest stage in college football is going to give him the exposure that he needs.
Regardless of how he may play in the big game, with all of the eyeballs that will be on the championship game, there isn't one person associated with college football who won't know who Golson is.
West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith was able to benefit from a crazy BCS Orange Bowl performance last year, and he was one of the favorites for the award entering this season. We also saw what happened with quarterback Collin Klein once everybody realized Kansas State had an elite college player.
Getting everybody to know you exist is half the battle toward winning the award.
A Star in the Making
It is important to know that Golson is only a first-year player and will have plenty of time to improve his game during a complete offseason as the projected starter. Even with that said, he has the skill set and has shown enough to believe he is a future star at the collegiate level.
Although Golson has made some costly mistakes throughout the season, that is expected from a young signal-caller. What is impressive is that he has improved each month on the football field, getting better with each game of experience.
According to CFBStats, the young quarterback has bumped up his completion percentage each month and has lowered his interception total. He also threw seven touchdowns in the final four games, while he only threw four in the first seven games. Improving his ability to make plays in this offense has to give Irish fans the confidence that he has what it takes to become a legitimate candidate for the Heisman.
The thing to like the most is that the playbook will expand in his second year at the position. Golson is actually a dual-threat quarterback who is capable of hurting defenses with his legs. However, Coach Kelly has really forced the young quarterback to stay in the pocket, teaching him to scan the field and be patient when throwing the football.
Much like an improved Braxton Miller was this year, you will likely see a spike in the big plays that Golson has next season. He will have more freedom in running this offense and will be allowed to make plays with his legs that we haven't seen much of in the past.
Golson has the ability to be that flashy quarterback like a Miller or Manziel. Next year, he will be able to prove it.
A Young Heisman Class
Quick question: Can you name some of the top Heisman candidates for 2013?
It isn’t as easy as it has been in the past, is it?
The truth is that the young guys have taken over the Heisman Trophy, and all of the upperclassmen are leaving for the next level or graduating. Golson doesn't have to compete against guys who are receiving all of the media attention and have been thrown in your face for three years.
Guys like Geno Smith, Matt Barkley, Landry Jones, Collin Klein, Tyler Wilson, Manti Te'o and even Marcus Lattimore are soon done with college.
You still have a few heavy-hitters returning for another year, such as Marqise Lee, Miller and Manziel, but many of the other candidates are all young and could be thrown in the same boat as Golson.
The media tends to make the upperclassmen the favorites, and the odds are stacked against the guys who haven't been around as long. But besides a few solid candidates, Golson could easily jump into the conversation with the class not being as strong as it usually is.
Unlike this season, there are really no clear cut front-runners for the Heisman. Even if you would like to throw out a few Heisman Trophy odds, you don't get the feeling that Golson can't compete with some of the top candidates.
As long as Golson remains the starter in South Bend, and the Irish continue this success, Golson is a 2013 Heisman contender.