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Owens: Young QB must grow into job (Aug. 24)

Andrew Owens | Friday, August 24, 2012

A new year, a new quarterback at Notre Dame.

Only this year, the quarterback position will be managed differently. It needs to be.

If Irish coach Brian Kelly is going to right the Notre Dame ship, he needs to show the same patience in sophomore quarterback Everett Golson that he undoubtedly desires from the Irish faithful in year three on the job.

If Kelly pulls the plug on the Golson experiment as quickly as he did with Dayne Crist last year, this season will feel as long and bleak as a South Bend winter.

Kelly praised Golson’s grasp of the art of the position in the spring, but said he was a “heart attack” due to his struggles with learning the science of being a quarterback. It was Golson’s improvement in that department that ultimately allowed him to leapfrog junior Andrew Hendrix and win the starting job. Kelly said on Aug. 16 that Golson had thrown just one interception in 126 attempts in fall camp to that point.

Not bad for a “heart attack.”

Golson will afford the offense some much-needed flair in the absence of Michael Floyd. While Tyler Eifert is more than capable of handling much of the offensive load, Golson’s ability to improvise will facilitate the growth and cover up some of the unit’s growing pains.

And there will be growing pains.

Regardless of which quarterback takes the lion’s share of the snaps this season (including junior Tommy Rees, who is suspended for the opener), ups and downs are guaranteed.
But for Golson to succeed, he can’t have the mindset that each snap could be his last.

“I think there’s always going to be anxiety with this being my first college game,” Golson said. “I’m always going to be anxious.”

Anxiety is only natural in his situation, but it’s important Kelly doesn’t add additional stress.

Allowing Golson to show his inexperience and flaws in 2012 will pay off down the road. This team isn’t ready to earn a Bowl Championship Series berth, but 2013 should be a different story. Entering this brutal schedule with a long-term approach doesn’t mean it has to compromise 2012.

There’s only one way Golson can gain experience, and it’s by throwing him straight into the fire.

Kelly said he anticipates Golson will play every snap of the opener, rather than shuttling he and Hendrix in and out every series, which is the right move. For Golson – and the entire offense – to find a groove and develop consistency, he needs to experience the leadership of leading an offense, as well as its struggles and triumphs.

While Kelly is not – and should not be – on the hot seat entering his third season, the success of his tenure rides largely on quarterback play. Rees reached his ceiling as a freshman and floundered as a sophomore, but Kelly finally has a quarterback that can effectively run his system.

Now, he just needs to take off the training wheels and let Golson grow.

The views in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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