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DeFranks: Golson is a new man under center (April 19)

Matthew DeFranks | Thursday, April 18, 2013

There is no controversy this year, no waiting game to be played. There is no four-way race, no suspenseful mid-August press conference, no doubt.

Everett Golson is the starting quarterback – as he should be.

For the first time since Irish coach Brian Kelly’s first season in South Bend, there is a clear-cut first-string signal-caller entering the annual Blue-Gold Game. More than that, it is a returning starter with experience in the biggest game of them all – the BCS National Championship Game.

The importance of stability at the quarterback position cannot be overstated. Just take a look at the team down South that rolled its way over the Irish in January. The last two seasons, AJ McCarron was the rock of the Tide offense when the offensive line needed a break from bulldozing room for the Alabama backs. McCarron’s familiarity under center, plus the team’s perennially No. 1-ranked defense, has led to back-to-back championships for Alabama.

Now Golson gets a second chance to be that quarterback.

During his first season at the helm, he displayed flashes of brilliance (the rainbow to Chris Brown against Oklahoma and the pump fake against Wake Forest), moments of incompetence (the end zone interceptions against Michigan and Pittsburgh) and glimpses of potential (his moxie at Michigan State and the two-point conversion against Pittsburgh).

But, this is the season Golson needs to take a giant leap forward. This is the season to for him to double his 12 touchdown passes from a year ago and top 3,000 yards passing.

Early indications are that Kelly will take the training wheels off Golson and push him down a hill into the entire hurry-up, read-option offense, which is nothing but a good thing when you have an athletic quarterback like Golson calling the shots. His arm gets the headlines but his legs make the difference.

When a play breaks down and he needs to scramble, the smallest piece of green grass ahead of him is like an acre of space. Even when he is simply buying time, it looks effortless (see: every deep pass to John Goodman last season).

Now take his fantastic plays and imagine them happening every game while his poor choices are minimalized. That is what Golson could be this year.

After all, the left side of the offensive line remains intact, he has a stable of running backs on which to rely and TJ Jones and DaVaris Daniels will carry the receiving load on the outside.

But this will not be the same Golson we saw last season. You will not see jump balls down the sidelines to Tyler Eifert anymore. You will not see maddening turnovers anymore. You will not see him content to simply hand the ball off and let others make plays.

Golson probably will not see much time (or at least much meaningful time) during Saturday’s glorified scrimmage and his development from last year to this year may not be apparent – but it’s there.

And Irish fans can finally breathe easier knowing there’s a sure and stable thing under center.

Contact Matthew DeFranks at mdefrank@nd.edu

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