Everett Golson returned to the field for Notre Dame on Monday and with him was the promise of another championship season.
Golson, Notre Dame’s top contender to be starting quarterback, missed all of last year while serving a semester-long suspension for academic improprieties, but coach Brian Kelly told media he thought Golson was better prepared now to handle the rigors of leading the Irish.
"In our dialogues relative to football, he has definitely a higher IQ as it relates to what we are talking about from a football standpoint," Kelly said Friday. "I can talk to him about things that I didn't believe I could talk to him about relative to protections, hot routes, just the nuances of the passing game.
"Clearly, he has evolved there.
On Monday, Kelly confirmed that Golson looked good in the team’s first of 15 spring practices.
"Everett stepped in there and the tempo of the offense was outstanding," Kelly said. "(He) looked like he was with us last year."
Irish Illustrated actually has video of some of Golson’s workout and he does look sharp.
But Golson has gone through a major maturation process to even get to this point. The rigors and pressure of being Notre Dame’s star quarterback on the 2012 team that ultimately went to the BCS National Championship consumed Golson so much that he forgot the “student” in student-athlete. Golson told media Monday he was embarrassed by the entire situation, but ready to get back on track.
"It feels great to be back," said Golson, who spent part of last year working out with famed quarterbacks coach George Whitfield.
"I knew I messed up. For me, I had to come back and finish what I started."
Golson’s biggest task this spring will be building the chemistry he wasn’t able to build a year ago. All of Golson’s top targets from 2012 have since departed, and he’ll have to get to know receivers Chris Brown, Corey Robinson, Will Fuller and C.J. Prosise if he wants to have a successful 2014.
But that’s still a long ways off and with the new College Football Playoff this season, the path to another national championship appearance for the Irish becomes significantly more difficult.
Kelly knows that path begins with Golson, who must first win the starting job from redshirt freshman Malik Zaire, a dual-threat quarterback, who has already been lauded by the Notre Dame coaching staff. Kelly thinks if Golson can show the leadership and consistency he was lacking in 2012, he could be the missing piece for the Irish.
"If you look at the 'watch words' for leadership: The first thing is compete. He's a great competitor," Kelly said Friday. "The second thing is consistency. Well, he hasn't shown that yet, right? So we're working on the consistency end of things.
"The third thing that I look for is great communication and we're doing a really good job of communicating on a day-to-day basis. And the fourth thing is being coachable. I think those four things are what I look for from every one of our players, and I like where we are in that process with Everett right now."
- - - - - - -