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Football

Golson returns to field as Irish open spring practice

| Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Heading in to practice early Monday morning, the temperature read -5 degrees. But it was another number five that was drawing all the attention as Notre Dame opened up spring practice at the Loftus Sports Center.

Senior quarterback Everett Golson (5) looks to hand the ball off at Notre Dame's first spring practice Monday at Loftus Sports Center.Joseph Monardo | The Observer

Senior quarterback Everett Golson (5) looks to hand the ball off at Notre Dame’s first spring practice Monday at Loftus Sports Center.

Irish senior quarterback Everett Golson practiced and met with the local media for the first time since returning to school.

“It feels great to be back,” Golson said after practice. “Just really grinding with my teammates, it really feels good.  I think I was a little too excited.”

Golson was suspended in May from Notre Dame for the fall semester and missed the entire season after reaching the BCS National Championship Game as the starter during the 2012 season. Golson told Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples in October that his suspension was for cheating, and Golson declined to address the situation Monday.

“I regret it in a sense,” Golson said. “But I think it allowed me to grow so much. … My maturity level is completely different now. I had some time to really sit back and think on what I did and how I can move forward from that. So I think I’m a different person because of that.”

Physically, too, Golson is different. The broad-chested quarterback has bulked up to 200 pounds, noticeable as he stood at the podium stretching his Notre Dame polo shirt. The 6-footer was listed at 185 pounds during the 2012 season.

“I think it makes me more durable,” Golson said. “Being 15 pounds heavier, I’m able to still move. I think I’ve actually gotten a little faster to be honest. I feel good at this weight that I’m at.”

Golson spent roughly two months in San Diego training with noted quarterback coach George Whitfield Jr., during the season. Golson, who said he had to make ends meet to pay for the training with Whitfield, now throws with the laces, a change that came about after some back-and-forth discussion with Whitfield.

“I’m starting to see a difference with that — more control on the ball,” Golson said. “I think my time out there has helped me tremendously.”

Golson also said his time with Whitfield helped him mentally on the field, as the two dissected “the actual science of being a quarterback.” Irish head coach Brian Kelly noticed the difference.

“In some of the film study I had with [Golson], there was definitely a conceptual awareness that he had lacked at some times with the passing game,” Kelly said. “He clearly has that. It’s an easier conversation for him.

“If I could give you the best way to explain it, it would be when he would explain his progression, it might take him 10 seconds. Well, you’ve got 2.6 seconds to throw the ball. Now he’s precise in his communication.”

As for if he had any major rust once he slid back into the No. 5 jersey and the gold helmet, it didn’t appear so to Kelly on Day One, at least.

“Everett stepped in there, and the tempo of the offense was outstanding,” Kelly said. “It was, for a first day, really exciting for me to watch him get back in there and look as though he was with us last year.”

Now back in the mix, Kelly said he knows much will be expected from the Irish quarterback.

“We all know college football and where it is, the quarterback is really going to be the centerpiece of this offense,” he said. “The way we run it is going to fall on him. Today was a very good day for him in a first day. We all live in the same world when it comes to the Notre Dame quarterback. We’re going to heap a lot onto this kid’s shoulders. He knows that. That’s why he came back to Notre Dame. Because he wants that opportunity. Clearly, he’s going to be the guy that drives this for us.”

While away, Golson said other schools did attempt to contact him through third parties. He also said he never considered heading to junior college.

“No, not at all,” he said. “I knew I messed up, so for me I had to come back and complete what I started.”

And in coming back, Golson said he has not received much animosity from people at Notre Dame, whether it be teammates, classmates or professors.

 

The media was allowed to view the first 30 minutes of practice. The following are some personnel observations.

 

Safety situation

Graduate student Austin Collinsworth and sophomore Max Redfield worked with the first-team defense during tempo drills. Junior Elijah Shumate and sophomore James Onwualu, who played receiver as a freshman, manned the second unit, while senior Eilar Hardy and junior Nicky Baratti worked with the third unit. Kelly said Friday that Baratti may be limited contact-wise while recovering from a shoulder injury that forced him to miss the 2013 season.

 

Offensive line

With senior Nick Martin still recovering from the torn MCL he suffered Nov. 23 against BYU, the first-team offensive line, from left to right, featured junior Ronnie Stanley, sophomore Steve Elmer, senior Matt Hegarty, graduate student Christian Lombard and sophomore Mike McGlinchey.

The second unit, from left to right, consisted of sophomore Hunter Bivin, senior Conor Hanratty, junior Mark Harrell and sophomores John Montelus and Colin McGovern.

 

Positional flexibility?

Senior Amir Carlisle is listed as a running back/receiver, but Carlisle worked exclusively with the receivers Monday. Seniors Ishaq Williams and Anthony Rabasa and junior Romeo Okwara, who are all listed as outside linebackers, spent the individual sessions with the defensive linemen.

Notre Dame lined up in four-man fronts, with Williams and Okwara flanking juniors Jarron Jones and Sheldon Day on the line. Sophomore Jaylon Smith, senior Joe Schmidt and graduate student Kendall Moore were the first-unit linebackers behind them.

Notre Dame practices Wednesday morning before taking a two-week hiatus over spring break.

Contact Mike Monaco at jmonaco@nd.edu

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About Mike Monaco

Senior Sports Writer Mike Monaco is a senior majoring in Film, Television and Theatre with a minor in Journalism, Ethics, and Democracy as well as Business Economics. The O’Neill Hall native hails from the Boston area and is an aspiring play-by-play broadcaster.

Contact Mike