Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson has much to prove in 2013. While the Fighting Irish went undefeated in the 2012 regular season and played in the national championship, much of the credit was owed to the Notre Dame defense, who ranked seventh in the nation overall.
While the defense remained rock solid, the offense was hot and cold, leading many to not take the Fighting Irish seriously despite their success.
Much of the onus will rest on Golson next season to prove the Irish offense is legit. Here are three things he needs to prove in 2013.
1. He can rush for significant yardage.
Golson had been heralded as a dual-threat quarterback, but in order to truly live up to that title, he needs to do more rushing and less scrambling. To give credit where credit is due, Golson did make some great plays on his feet last season. Unfortunately, scrambling does not win championships.
If you compare his 2012 stats with Ohio State dual-threat quarterback Braxton Miller, you see that Golson actually passed for more yardage than Miller—366 more yards, to be exact—but Miller blows Golson out of the water when it comes to rushing.
Last season Golson rushed for a total of 298 yards while Miller ran for an astounding 1,271.
If Golson wants to be taken seriously as a dual-threat quarterback, he's going to have to start rushing smart, not scrambling when a play deteriorates. It would behoove him to spend some time in the film room watching Miller and Oregon's Marcus Mariota to gain some insight on rushing smart.
On the field, sticking to the playbook and accurately assessing defensive formations will also do Golson a world of good in 2013.
2. His confidence in the pocket has improved.
Last season, Golson had issues hanging in the pocket.
Golson's passing stats were not bad in 2012, but they could have been better if he hung in the pocket longer and kept his eyes down the field for alternate receivers.
How much has head coach Brian Kelly's decision to pull Golson for Rees on key plays affected his confidence?
I'm going to go out on a limb here and question how much Golson's confidence was affected by head coach Brian Kelly pulling him for backup Tommy Rees last season on key plays.
While I absolutely agree that pulling Golson for Rees definitely saved the Irish on a few third downs, one questions whether Kelly won the battle but lost the war here. This may not be a popular point to address among the Irish fanbase, but I question how much it factors into Golson's mindset.
3. He can pass the ball accurately and consistently.
If Golson bolsters his confidence in the pocket, it will give him time to work on his passing skills.
Last season his pass-completion percentage fluctuated from 37.5 percent all the way up to 77.3 percent. Compare that with Alabama pocket-passer A.J. McCarron, who threw anywhere between 51.9 percent all the way up to 100 percent, and you see Golson needs to work on consistency.
I don't think I need to belabor the obvious here: Golson needs to improve his pass efficiency. He has a great arm on him, so if he just focuses on the points I mentioned above, he should be able to improve his stats significantly.
There has been some talk of Golson being in the Heisman race. If he is able to prove the three aforementioned skills, he will definitely be in the race for college football's top trophy.