Everett Golson enters the season, as Kegs 'N Eggs tells us, as a 22-1 odds guy for the Heisman. So, while he's technically on the radar, he's just hanging onto the outskirts between Brett Hundley of UCLA and Stephen Morris of Miami. But nonetheless, he's on the radar, and that's more than the other Notre Dame No. 5—who ended up in New York City last December—could say at this point in the year.
Last year's effort is not going to cut it if the Irish are going to send finalists to the Heisman ceremony in back-to-back years. No, for Golson to be that sort of player for the Irish, he has to improve in both tangible production and the perception of his role on the team.
From a production standpoint, the answer to what he has to do better is pretty simple: just about everything. While Golson, for the most part, did enough for his team to win all 12 regular-season games, being in the hunt for the Heisman is about more than doing just enough. It's about the numbers, and Golson's 2,135 yards in the air, 305 on the ground and 16 total touchdowns in the regular season won't cut it.
When you look at recent numbers of the Heisman Trophy "elite," a clear picture of statistical explosion is painted. Whether you look at winners like Johnny Manziel, Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III, or the "also rans" such as Andrew Luck, Kellen Moore and Colt McCoy, explosive stat lines are a must to go with wins.
In order to grow that production, Golson has to improve upon hitting his targets and become a real factor in the run game. While he lost his top target, Tyler EIfert, he returns with his top two wide receivers and a better working knowledge of not only his offense, but of opposing defenses.
As the run game picks up where it left off a season ago, there will be opportunities for big plays and Golson has to hit those spots. That means increasing his completion percentages, becoming a more dangerous passer and truly taxing defenses with his arm.
It is almost a given that Golson's passing numbers will increase in year two as the starter. He has a firmer grasp of the offense, more established options to work with and he's earned more of Brian Kelly's confidence.
To go with the improved pass numbers, Golson has to get some things done on the ground. That does not mean he has to go for the massive numbers of guys like Newton or Griffin, but it does mean he has to be a factor in the run game consistently. This includes putting up reliable numbers every game, a big number here or there and a few rushing touchdowns to add to the overall total.
Yet, even if Golson does see the numbers increase in the air and on the ground, the biggest hurdle for him, and the Heisman talk, is going to be perception. Last year, Golson was "the other No. 5" on a team that belonged to Manti Te'o. He was the guy who got pulled early on for Tommy Rees to save the day.
In short, he was viewed as little more than a caretaker of a team who was just hoping their defense could save them on a game-by-game basis. Part of that was because of his youth in execution, part of that was because of Brian Kelly spoon-feeding him the offense and part of that was just simply true.
Now, in 2012, Te'o is gone, Golson's a year more experienced and Kelly can take off the kid gloves and start to really push the limits.
And pushing those limits, in addition to racking up double digit wins, is what it will take to get Everett Golson mentioned in the Heisman discussion.
With all that said, don't expect the Heisman to be on the minds of the Irish. After getting beat down in the BCS Championship Game, the goal for this team is to get back to that mountaintop and finish the drill. While another Heisman finalist would bring some tremendous hype to the season, getting back to 12-0 is all that matters for these guys.
Brian Kelly and Everett Golson have to work together to rev up this offenses production; not because of the possibility of big Heisman-like numbers, but to put opponents away, take some pressure off of the defense and hoist that prized crystal football in January.