With Week 1 just around the corner, college football’s fall quarterback battles are winding down. On Thursday, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly officially made the decision most expected he would make all offseason: Everett Golson will be the No. 1 quarterback for the season opener against Navy.
Finding a spark on offense is one of the top offseason priorities for Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly. The numbers weren’t that bad for the Irish last season, ranking 49th nationally in scoring and 35th in total yards per game. However, the offense struggled over the final three games of 2011, scoring less than 20 points in each of those contests. The Irish also ranked 118th in turnover margin - something that has to change if this team wants to have any shot at making a BCS bowl in 2012.
When looking at the four candidates to start on the roster, Kelly really had no choice but to go with Golson as the starter. Tommy Rees wasn’t awful last season, throwing for 2,871 yards and 20 touchdowns. However, he threw 14 picks and is more of a caretaker than a playmaker. Sophomore Andrew Hendrix has good mobility but is still developing as a passer. True freshman Gunner Kiel ranked as the No. 2 quarterback in the 2012 recruiting class but needs another offseason to develop.
Looking back at Kelly’s offenses at Cincinnati and Central Michigan, both teams thrived with a dual-threat quarterback. Dan LeFevour threw for 12,905 yards and 102 touchdowns during his Chippewa career, while rushing for 2,948 yards and 47 scores. The Bearcats had two pocket passers (Tony Pike and Ben Mauk) in Brian Kelly’s first two years, but Zach Collaros played a key role in leading Cincinnati to the 2009 Big East title.
No matter which quarterback Kelly chose to start, it probably wouldn’t change Notre Dame’s win total this season. The Irish have one of the most difficult schedules in college football, as they host Michigan, Stanford and BYU, while playing at Michigan State, Oklahoma and USC.
Considering Rees had his chance last season and isn’t much of a difference maker, going with Golson made the most sense for Notre Dame. Sure, the redshirt freshman will make mistakes, but there’s a lot to like in terms of upside.
Golson doesn’t have prototypical quarterback size, as he checks in at 6-foot and 185 pounds. The South Carolina native was a finalist to win the state’s Mr. Football award in 2010 and threw 151 touchdown passes during his high school career. Golson ranked among the top 25 quarterbacks in the 2011 recruiting class but spent last year redshirting and learning the offense.
Golson won’t have to win games solely on his own, especially with Notre Dame landing USC transfer Amir Carlisle to team with Cierre Wood at running back. While Golson may struggle early to find his rhythm as a passer, his dual-threat ability should provide a much-needed spark on offense.
Considering the inconsistency of the offense last season, turning to Golson and living with the ups and downs is the correct answer for Notre Dame. The only way the redshirt freshman quarterback is going to learn is with on-field experience, and he will get plenty of that with a challenging schedule.
As usual, Notre Dame’s 2013 slate isn’t much easier, as games against Michigan, Michigan State, Oklahoma, USC and Stanford could all be top-25 battles. However, the Irish bring back a solid core, and Golson will be better with a full year under his belt.
It was the obvious choice for Brian Kelly but choosing Golson to start in 2012 will pay off for Notre Dame over the next couple of years.
by Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
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