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Notre Dame’s Everett Golson still has much to grasp to play QB

Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golsisn’t immune another benching by Brian Kelly. | AP

Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson isn’t immune to another benching by Brian Kelly. | AP

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Updated: October 14, 2012 1:47PM

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Anyone who saw Notre Dame’s Everett Golson sidestep two Purdue pass rushers and zip a 30-yard strike to Troy Niklas, or race out of the pocket and launch himself at the end zone pylon for a touchdown, knows that Golson has elite physical skills.

So, yes, Brian Kelly knows Golson can play quarterback. But that doesn’t mean the redshirt freshman has “quarterbacking” down.

That’s why he doesn’t have the job entirely nailed down, either.

“We saw his athletic ability, his escapability. We saw the incredibly athletic move, coming out of the pocket to score a touchdown,” Kelly said. “So physically, we’re pleased with where he’s at, and he’s living up to what we thought he could do. But we’ve got a lot to do with the mental part of the game, the quarterbacking, the fundamentals — all the things that go along with it.”

That means getting the plays in from the sideline in a speedy manner, something with which Golson has struggled since the spring. That means telling his teammates the play and getting them set in a timely fashion, something with which Golson occasionally had trouble in the din of Notre Dame Stadium against Purdue. That means calling out coverages and protections, something with which Golson has been getting help from linemen Braxton Cave and Zack Martin.

Kelly calls it “housekeeping.”

An extra few seconds here or there might not seem like much midway through the second quarter. But in the two-minute offense, every second is precious. Kelly said Tuesday that was one big reason he benched Golson for veteran Tommy Rees for what proved to be the game-winning drive against the Boilermakers.

It’s also why he hasn’t ruled out doing it again Saturday at No. 10 Michigan Sate, or in any other game, until Golson proves he can not just make plays, but run the offense.

“He’s a work in progress,” Kelly said. “He’s somebody that’s had two starts, and he was on the scout team at this time last year. He continues to get better.”

Golson has been shielded from the media since the Purdue game, so it’s anybody’s guess how he handled the benching. But Kelly said the postgame film session opened his young quarterback’s eyes.

“He’s seeing it for the first time,” Kelly said. “He’s looking at it going, ‘Wow, it took me seven seconds to actually get up there. Maybe I need to speed up my housekeeping.’ ”

It doesn’t get any easier for Golson. He’ll play in his first true road game when the No. 20 Irish visit Spartan Stadium. Kelly will use all the usual tricks this week, including piping in crowd noise at practice, to prepare Golson for the ruckus. In fact, Kelly thinks the crowd noise might help Golson because it will force the Irish to simplify their sideline communication.

In the meantime, Kelly said he has three more days of practice to continue turning Golson into a savvy quarterback. He also said that’s easier than having to take a savvy quarterback and turn him into an elite athlete.

“When you look at the film and you see him, you go, ‘Wow.’ Physically, he does some really good things,” Kelly said. “We just need to make sure he’s taking that next step.”

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