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Joseph: Golson selection not enough (Aug. 31)

Allan Joseph | Thursday, August 30, 2012

DUBLIN – Don’t do it. Just don’t. Don’t read too much into Irish coach Brian Kelly’s selection of sophomore Everett Golson as the starting quarterback for tomorrow’s opener.

I’m all for getting excited about it, but the truth is stark: Golson is not the solution to all of Notre Dame’s woes. He will not lead the Irish to a national championship, or even 10 regular-season wins, this year. He will not be a Heisman contender. He will not be the second coming of Joe Montana.
He will, however, make plenty of mistakes.

That’s understandable – after all, Golson is a first-time starter. The Blue-Gold Game and practice are a good start, but no one rushes you quite as quickly as an opposing defensive end in front of tens of thousands of fans. Especially early in the season, the young, talented quarterback will show his youth more often than his talents.

But the biggest reason Golson’s inexperience will prevent him from being an instant legend is because of the offense he has to work with. Without Michael Floyd to draw safeties away from senior tight end Tyler Eifert, Golson won’t have a big safety blanket. Even more worrisome is the depth of the receiving corps as a whole. While there’s a lot of talent in players like T.J. Jones, Theo Riddick and Robby Toma, none of them have demonstrated an ability to consistently change games. This means Golson is going to have to account for more of the offense than he would have last year. Some of that will be straightforward, like an increased reliance on option and zone-read plays. Some of it will be more intangible, like drawing defenders away from his receivers by rolling out of the pocket. All of it will be challenging for a young quarterback. He will make mistakes.

Those mistakes might come at bad times, too. Last year, the Irish had the luxury of relying on bruising veteran running back Jonas Gray when they needed a third-down conversion or in the red zone. While George Atkinson is explosive coming out of the backfield, he doesn’t have Gray’s size. Again, that very simply translates into more responsibility on Golson. He will make mistakes.

Even if the new starter does exceed every impossibly high expectation, he can’t touch this team’s biggest liability: its defensive secondary. The success of the 2012 season probably depends more on another starter named last Thursday: freshman KeiVarae Russell, who will start at cornerback following the loss of Lo Wood to injury. Even if Golson turns in 12 impeccable performances this year, this team just won’t win 12 games. It will make mistakes.

None of this is to say Golson isn’t a significant upgrade for Notre Dame. Every piece of evidence we have – including, yes, that insane high school highlight reel – suggests he’ll provide an immediate dose of dynamism to an Irish offense sorely in need of it. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him win a game or two on his own after he’s settled into the starting role. His ceiling is sky-high, and it’s positively scary to think of what he could become by the time his Senior Day rolls around.

But for now, recognize this: Golson is not the end to Notre Dame’s problems. He is not the savior of the 2012 season. Throughout the year, he’ll probably be up and down, and he’ll probably make more than a few highlight-reel plays. But you can count on one thing: He will make mistakes.