For a first-year starter, quarterback Everett Golson has put up solid numbers for the No. 1 ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish. He's thrown for 2,135 yards, 11 touchdowns and only five interceptions. He'll no doubt play a big role in the BCS National Championship Game.
But what can we expect from Golson next year? It's clear that if the Irish want to sustain the success from this year, Golson is going to have to come up big.
There are some encouraging signs. In the last five games, Golson has completed over 59 percent of his passes while scoring 10 total touchdowns and only turning the ball over twice. He's constantly improving and seems more in command than he was in the beginning of the year.
While Golson has often been relieved by Tommy Rees, those days are over. He is the quarterback now and going forward, and his command of the offense is increasing.
Golson is going to make big strides next year. Having the experience of a national championship game against a punishing defense under his belt will be invaluable for the young quarterback. Every game will feel a little easier, every defense a little softer. The game will start to slow down for him now that he'll have done it on the biggest stage.
In addition, the Irish as a team should get better. They're bringing 4-star recruit Torii Hunter Jr. in to bolster a receiving group that already features only two seniors and nine freshmen and sophomores. They are all talented players who will give Golson a variety of weapons to choose from.
Furthermore, Golson should be given the reins to run more. He's rushed for only 305 yards this season, a number that will increase with consistent play and more trust in his legs. With the success that Johnny Manziel has seen this season, especially against Alabama, look for Golson to take advantage of this starting January 7th.
Golson is young and we can still expect mistakes. He's not entirely comfortable reading coverage, and he is prone to some baffling gaffes. But that will improve with time. He has the talent to excel and as Notre Dame continues to bring in stellar recruiting classes, the talent around him will always be great.
The Irish will come into the 2013 season with very high expectations. Even if they lose in the championship game, they will still be ranked high in the preseason polls.
Golson is the key to their success. If he succeeds, look for the Irish to continue their winning ways. If not, it could make 2012 seem like a fluke.
However, the future looks bright in South Bend, and Golson has shown the skills and maturity to keep the Irish in the hunt for years to come.