When Notre Dame takes on Michigan in South Bend on September 22, Everett Golson, the young quarterback for the Fighting Irish, will only need to look across the field to see the kind of quarterback that ND fans, and alumni like me, hope he can become.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly chose Golson as his starter this season, despite his QB never having taken a snap in a collegiate game, because he believes he can use both his legs and his arm to beat other teams. There is, perhaps, no better example in college football of how this can work than the Wolverines' Denard Robinson.
In 2010, Robinson set a Wolverine record with 502 yards of total offense, and his rushing touchdown with 27 seconds to play led Michigan to a 28-24 win. Last season, Robinson torched the Irish for 446 yards of offense, including four touchdown passes and one rushing TD, in Michigan's stirring 35-31 come-from behind victory. That's the kind of versatility Kelly seeks from Golson at the controls of the coach's preferred spread offense.
"He's not a great player; he's the best player on the field," Kelly marvels about Robinson.
If all goes as hoped, Golson will become that kind of quarterback for Notre Dame. He has shown improvement each week this season, as Kelly and the coaching staff continue to ask more and more from him. The very simple, run-oriented game plan the irish employed in the season opener against navy opened up considerably by the third game, when Golson surprised the vaunted Michigan State defense with his play.
"He's very skilled, but he's also very smart," says Kelly of his first-year quarterback. "He just doesn't have a lot of experience. So translating that classroom knowledge onto the football field is the process that we're in. Sometimes he's a little bit late in those reactions, sometimes he's too much pre-snap. Other times we feel like he does some things you can't teach. It's an evolutionary process of just getting more and more opportunities to play this game."
On the other hand, Kelly would like to see Golson be more consistent over the long term than Robinson has tended to be. He had a bad game in Michigan's opening loss to Alabama, then rebounded for nearly 400 yards of total offense against Massachusetts in week three.
The Irish are 3-0 for the first time in a decade, and on the edge of the top ten in college football. The game against 18th-ranked Michigan will be a test of their progress as a program, and of Golson's maturation as a quarterback.
More from Yahoo! Contributor Network:
Rick Blaine, an award-winning broadcaster and columnist, holds two degrees from Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @RickBlaineCT.
- American Football
- Sports & Recreation
- Denard Robinson