There will likely be no quarterback controversy for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the offseason, as Everett Golson is the unquestioned man for the job heading into 2013. As a redshirt freshman last season, the young signal-caller performed well enough to give Irish fans positive vibes heading into spring practice and, eventually, the 2012 season.
But like every young player, Golson has a lot of things that he can improve upon to help give his team the best chance to win. Being the starting quarterback of a team that reached the national championship is good and all, but there are a lot of things that need to be tweaked in his game in order for him to become a better overall player.
Due to Golson not being named the starter until late in fall camp last year, he wasn't able to benefit from an entire offseason of working with the starting offense. Now that he will see increased reps in practice, here are the main things that he should be working on to improve his game in 2013.
Don't Be Afraid to Take Chances
No, I don't mean play like Tommy Rees and force the ball into triple-coverage when your team is five yards away from scoring a touchdown. Interceptions are never a good thing, and if you throw a lot of them, there is a chance that you won't be the starter for very much longer.
However, a quarterback can't be afraid to make a mistake and, sometimes, playing a little loose is a good thing.
Now, a lot of this lack of confidence has to do with the poor decisions that the coaching staff made last season (we will get to that later), but Golson can certainty help himself by not being afraid to take more chances. There were too many times when Golson was hesitant about throwing into a tight window. He would pump fake a couple times, look off the receiver and then place the ball out of bounds, giving his teammate almost no shot to make a play on the ball. He needs to stop doing that.
If you are the quarterback of the team, you shouldn't be afraid to make a mistake, and you should have the confidence to throw a jump ball inbounds so that your receiver can go up and get it. Don't shy away from making those tough throws across the middle when the linebacker is quickly creeping from behind. You're the quarterback, go out there and lead the team to victory.
Hesitant and weak throws aren't going to get the job done. Decision making like that will land you on the sidelines quickly, and it will force the coaching staff to go elsewhere and name a new starting signal-caller. But at the same time, Golson can't be worried about making a mistake. There is a thin line between confidence and consistently poor decision making.
We have seen what Golson is capable of when he gets a rhythm going and the confidence is dripping off of his jersey. All of the great quarterbacks aren't afraid of taking chances, and it is the supreme confidence that they have in every throw that makes them great.
Golson needs to stop thinking so much with each and every throw and sometimes just believe that he can deliver on his next pass attempt.
Improve the Field Vision
This may tie into the lack of risks that Golson feels comfortable taking. He struggles to see the field properly.
According to his scouting report, provided by Scout.com, field vision was an issue with Golson when he was coming out of high school. He was accused of often locking onto his receivers and would end up missing some of the easier throws that quarterbacks would kill to have.
In the game against Stanford, Golson showed that this is still an area that he desperately needs to work on.
In the first quarter, Golson didn't just have one receiver running down field wide open; he had two he could have hit for a touchdown. There was no safety help over the top and either one of those Irish receivers could have walked into the end-zone. In the second quarter, while Golson had a nice run that coaches would be proud of, he also had a lonely DaVaris Daniels sprinting down field that would have also resulted in a touchdown.
If Golson would have done a better job of scanning the field and finding the open man a lot sooner, the game against the Cardinal wouldn't have been as close as it was and there would have been no controversial finish.
The Irish quarterback must do a better job of reading coverage’s and recognizing mismatches down the field. If he can improve in this department, he will be a much better player than he was during the 2012 season.
Get His Team on the Same Page
Let's get back to the confidence thing for a second. It is easy for everybody to critique his play and breakdown the numbers to say that Golson was not effective last season. However, the play calling and the coaching staff certainly didn't help matters whatsoever. The Notre Dame quarterback could drastically improve just by the guys around him making better decisions.
For one, Golson needs to remain in the game at all times if he is truly going to be the future of this football team. He shouldn't be pulled after every bad read he makes and after every turnover that takes place. Confidence with quarterbacks is about as fragile as a newborn baby and it is important that this nonsense of pulling him out of the game comes to a stop. You can't expect somebody to improve when there is no consistency to the game plan or his minutes on the field.
Another thing that the coaching stuff must do is design more plays for Golson to be effective with his legs. Let's be honest, no matter what Golson does to become better during the offseason, he will remain a dual-threat quarterback and is probably a better runner than passer at this point in his career. Running the football only 94 times is simply not enough, and the team simply isn't taking full advantage of his abilities.
Before the national championship matchup against Alabama, Crimson Tide cornerback Dee Milliner compared Golson to Texas A&M Heisman winner Johnny Manziel, according to Dan Wolken of USA Today.
They're two different teams, and they do different things. Cornerback Dee Milliner said. But Manziel and Everett are two scrambling quarterbacks that can make plays with their feet, so that's a good comparison.
Now Manziel has a lot more athletic ability than Golson has ever dreamed of having, but the Notre Dame quarterback is not being used properly. With him being more of a threat to run the football, it will open up the pass and make everything easier when attempting to throw the ball. We should see more zone-reads next year, more quarterback options and more triple-options in order to get the most out of this dual-threat quarterback.
While other offenses are thriving because they are letting the quarterback make plays with his legs, Notre Dame struggled mightily to produce points because Golson was handcuffed.
Golson is more than a quarterback with a bunch of upside because he can also hurt defenses with his legs. With a year under his belt, it is time that the coaching staff starts taking advantage of his abilities, as it will only make him more effective next season.