Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly has decided his team will open the season behind a quarterback who has never taken a snap in a collegiate game. Kelly named sophomore Everett Golson to start the Fighting Irish's season opener, September 1 in Dublin, Ireland against Navy.
Golson emerged the winner in a three-man competition for the starting job after incumbent quarterback Tommy Rees was suspended for the opener over an offseason arrest. Golson, who was a redshirt for the Irish last season, beat out junior Andrew Hendrix and freshman Gunner Kiel.
''After a lot of practice, lots of film, lots of evaluation, he won the job,'' Kelly said. ''Andrew did a great job, made great improvements. I'm really pleased with the progress of both those young men. It was a tough decision. If things go the way we're planning it, he'll play the whole game.''
Irish fans, and Notre Dame alumni like me, hope those plans take hold. Everyone wants to avoid a repeat of last season, when a two-way competition through fall practice ended with Dayne Crist being named starter, only to be permanently replaced by Rees at halftime of the very first game.
Golson excites the imagination of ND fans, despite none of having seen him play a real game. He seems perfectly cast to run the spread offense that earned Kelly his reputation, and the Notre Dame head coaching job. In the annual spring game, Golson was impressive, completing 11 of his 15 passes for 120 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also ran for 25 yards.
As fall practice opened, Kelly admitted that he had a favorite in mind as his starter based on the spring performances. Golson got the first snaps in camp, and held on to the lead throughout.
"I would say what makes me more comfortable back there is just my teammates," Golson said after being chosen. "You talk about the veterans, you've got the O-line, you've got veteran wide receivers. Like I said, the quarterbacks out there just helping me. That's made me more comfortable."
Hendrix saw action last year as a change-of-pace QB behind Rees, throwing 37 passes. But he seemed somewhat plagued by the same issue that hindered Rees - turnovers.
Now, Notre Dame's widespread fan base will hold its collective breath to see what we have. How will a player with absolutely no college experience step in and handle the enormous pressre that comes with being the Irish quarterback?
"I think we've prepared the offense to suit a first-time starter," Kelly said. "We have four seasons of competition remaining, so anytime you're starting somebody with four seasons of competition (remaining), you know that he's going to learn more. He's going to experience more as he plays. We also have to make sure that we put him in good positions. I think you'll see that on game day."
Let's hope so.
Rick Blaine, an award-winning broadcaster and columnist, holds two degrees from Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @RickBlaineCT.
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