Irish sophomore QB Everett Golson gets nod vs. Navy
BY MARK LAZERUS firstname.lastname@example.org August 23, 2012 10:12PM
Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson sprints out of the pocket during the first half of a spring NCAA college football game Saturday April 16, 2011 in South Bend, Ind. The Blue and Gold game marks the end of spring practice. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)
Updated: September 25, 2012 10:59AM
Dual-threat sophomore Everett Golson officially won Notre Dame’s quarterback derby on Thursday, taking the lead in a four-horse race in the spring and beating junior Andrew Hendrix down the home stretch of training camp.
Now the trick is to stay out front.
“They said I’m the starter for Navy, not (that) I’m the starter for the rest of the season,” Golson told reporters Thursday. “I’m going to keep my foot on the gas.”
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly raved about Golson’s arm, athletic ability and poise — despite the fact he’s never played a down of college football. But Kelly can be impatient with his quarterbacks. Starter Dayne Crist was yanked at halftime of the opener against South Florida last year, and threw just nine passes the rest of the season, eventually transferring to Kansas in the offseason. Tommy Rees started the next 12 games, but was pulled in favor of Hendrix halfway through the regular-season finale against Stanford.
And while Kelly said throughout training camp that he wouldn’t stand very long for turnovers (the Irish had 29 last year), he said Thursday that he wants to be able to stick with one guy and build continuity. He hopes Golson — who was the only Irish QB without a turnover in the spring game, and who threw just one interception in his first 126 camp passes (and just three overall) — is that guy.
“I don’t think you go in any year thinking, boy, I want to make a change at halftime,” Kelly said. “We want one to be the guy.”
Golson was the scout team quarterback last year, buried at the bottom of the depth chart. But his big arm and shifty running made him a tantalizing prospect to run Kelly’s spread offense. Rees’ pedestrian play last year opened up the competition, and his arrest in May and subsequent one-game suspension cleared the way for Golson. Improved grades and more time and effort in film study helped the sophomore’s cause.
Without any experience, Golson is all potential — but he’s teeming with it. He has a reputation as a runner, but he ranks sixth all-time among high school quarterbacks with 151 career touchdown passes for Myrtle Beach High in South Carolina.
“His poise was really outstanding,” Kelly said. “(He’s shown) great vision down the field.”
Golson found out the news on Wednesday, and when he arrived to practice on Thursday, he found a visor on his helmet. He’d always wanted one, but Kelly said he couldn’t have one until he was the starter.
Golson had been taking the first-team reps all camp, but now he’ll get 70 percent of the overall reps to prepare for Navy, instead of splitting them evenly with Hendrix.
Golson thanked his teammates — including fellow quarterbacks Rees, Hendrix and freshman Gunner Kiel for pushing him to be better — but said it wasn’t time to “rejoice” just yet.
“I understand it’s time to go to work right now,” he said.
In other news, Kelly said freshman KeiVarae Russell — a converted running back who virtually came out of nowhere this camp — will start at cornerback opposite Bennett Jackson. Russell replaces junior Lo Wood, who ruptured his Achilles tendon this week in practice and is out for the season.
Kelly also said freshman Davonte Neal will be the Irish punt returner, with sophomore George Atkinson III again returning kickoffs.