Senior College Football Columnist

New Irish QB Golson hopes to finish what he's starting in Dublin


DUBLIN, Ireland -- A few months ago Everett Golson was everyone else's quarterback. That's another way of saying he was on Notre Dame's scout team. That was as depressing for a big-time high school quarterback prospect as you can imagine. Nice freshman season, kid.

"I think every player has that experience," Golson said. "It's what you do with it. Me, going through that obviously helped me change and focus, this is what I want to do."

Golson arrived here Thursday with his teammates for Saturday's opener against Navy as Notre Dame's starting quarterback. But in the big picture he hasn't arrived at all. Far from it. Making the leap from Notre Dame offensive scout teamer of the year to one of the most glamorous positions in college sports seems Rudy-esque. For now, it is the right solution to a complicated problem. Whether it's a permanent fix or not isn't certain to the quarterback himself.

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"I'm definitely not where I want to be," said Golson, who was named the starter earlier this month. "I've got a long, long, long way to go."

Golson could have been speaking for the entire program. The sophomore is taking the first snap of his career Saturday morning at 9 a.m. ET only because Tommy Rees isn't. Rees, a junior, was suspended for the opener after being arrested in May and charged with four misdemeanors after a dust-up at an off-campus party.

That incident threw that glamorous position up for grabs. Golson followed an encouraging spring by winning the job this month.

Because he wasn't going to play in the opener, Rees was given a limited amount of snaps this month. The job conceivably still could be his after Navy as the schedule gets tougher. But what kind of reward/message would that be for Golson? And is coach Brian Kelly willing to hand Rees his old job back so quickly?

"Why do 80 percent of NFL teams not like their quarterbacks?" said Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chuck Martin. "For most teams it's a constant struggle. I'm a Bears fans. I'm 44, I've seen 70 quarterbacks. From Bob Avellini right on up. They're hard to find.

"It's also a little overblown. Everybody is looking for next Tom Brady and he's not always out there."

Domers would settle of a little continuity. Some of them see the loss of Rees as an upgrade. Rees committed 19 turnovers (14 interceptions) last season. That's more than 42 teams.

"When you don't have someone going into the season who doesn't have that production then ... you're making that educated guess as who that next player is," Kelly said before settling on Golson. "If everything is equal across the board, you're looking at some of the intangibles. The ability to show poise under pressure, the ability to command a presence."

With Rees gone, Golson basically battled junior Andrew Hendrix for the job this month. Gunner Kiel was eliminated early from the competition because he is a freshman. Hendrix is bigger (by 35 pounds), taller (by two inches) and more of a pocket presence than Golson. But in a program that desperately needs something sexy, Golson is more than a dual threat. He plays piano and admits that basketball is his first love.

We'll see how that works out against Michigan State's defense.

"It's not recess, as I like to tell him about every five minutes," Martin said. "Recess is you drop back and the teacher yells at you if you threw the wrong read. Recess gets us beat. He is a natural in some of things he does. He is naturally gifted. [But] he's never really had to take time to be a student of the game."

And after watching Thursday's practice, don't be surprised if Hendrix gets a share of playing time. That may or may not have something to do with wind being a factor. It was blowing briskly on Thursday.

"In windy conditions, tight balls are rewarded ..." Kelly said. "We had a little play here, he was sloppy, his arm was down, the ball was on the ground. Come out the next time, good rotation. You're trying to remind him of the conditions."

It's not a quarterback controversy just yet, more of a quarterback conundrum. Where does everyone stand? In his third year Kelly doesn't have a go-to guy for his spread offense. He does have experience playing multiple quarterbacks. Part of the reason he made it to Notre Dame was his ability to get to the Orange Bowl having to use five quarterbacks at Cincinnati.

"Absolutely," said Hendrix, a Cincinnati native. "You could be a fourth-string guy. You could be three plays away, three bad decisions away from being the starter. You have to prepare every day. It's a tough game, injuries happen. I can't remember the last time a Coach Kelly team used one quarterback. It's been a while."

Golson is the guy, at least for now. Thank North Carolina for that. Coming out of Myrtle Beach, S.C., Golson was committed to the Tar Heels. Then the NCAA showed up investigating academic fraud that eventually landed North Carolina probation.

"It was like a game-changer honestly," Golson said.

Maybe he can become one himself.

Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.

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