While a lot could happen over the next six months, as of mid-July, the assumption is that Everett Golson will return to Notre Dame for the spring semester and attempt to regain the starting quarterback position that he vacated in May after being dismissed from school for academic misconduct.
Golson, having redshirted in 2011, will have two years of eligibility remaining. He’ll be joined by sophomore Malik Zaire and, presumably, true freshman DeShone Kizer, who committed to the Irish last month.
The only question mark is senior Andrew Hendrix, who is eligible for a fifth year in 2014 but could opt to play elsewhere if he is not a viable contender to start.
After having led Notre Dame to the BCS Championship Game in his first year as a starter, the logical progression would be for Golson to regain his position atop the depth chart a year from now after the graduation of Tommy Rees.
Not so fast, my friends.
While I, as well as many others, felt Golson was headed for a great season in 2013, reality is, he’s yet to prove he can be a consistent performer.
He was benched three times in 2012, struggling in all but one of his five starts at Notre Dame Stadium. Golson’s grasp of the offense improved throughout the season, but it was still well below that of Rees.
At this time next year, Zaire will be in the same position Golson was in heading into 2012—a sophomore who has been on campus for 18 months. He could even be in a better spot than Golson was if he gets some actual game experience this season as a freshman.
Through one spring, Zaire appears to already be slightly ahead of where Golson was two years ago, proving to be a quick learner in a complex offense. To ask him to be more than a limited-package contributor this fall is likely too much, but the future is bright under center for the Irish, with or without Golson.
While the 2013 Irish offense should look much like it did last season, 2014 may be the year where the offense has to become more diverse.
The offensive line will be young, having to replace two All-American candidates after this season, while the receiving corps could become a strength for the first time since Michael Floyd was wearing blue and gold with seniors DaVaris Daniels and Troy Niklas, junior Chris Brown, and sophomores Will Fuller, James Onwualu and Corey Robinson.
Eight months away from the program is going to hinder Golson’s development, regardless of how studious and focused he is during his time away from Notre Dame.
Gunner Kiel’s transfer will prove to be a blessing for Zaire, as it will give the newcomer more practice repetitions than Golson or Kiel received in their respective freshman years. To say Zaire could be ahead of Golson in terms of knowledge base by next summer isn’t hyperbole.
What is clear is that Irish fans should enjoy this year’s drama-free fall camp, at least in regard to the quarterback. 2014 will look much like 2011 and 2012, as the Irish look for the best replacement for Rees, who will be missed more than most Notre Dame supporters will ever admit.
While Golson will certainly be a welcome addition to the 2014 Notre Dame roster, he’s not going to simply pick up where he left off before leaving the program. Zaire will be capable of leading the Irish a year from now.
Whether or not he can do it better than Golson will be one of the biggest storylines next spring and summer.