There’s no doubt that the 2012 Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team was very good. Not quite as good as some of the boys from down south, but then again, who is?
If the Irish are to take the next step and actually win the big game, improved quarterback play is a must. Not to say Everett Golson didn’t make some good plays last year, but he wasn’t scaring anyone with his arm, and that’s a huge problem. If they want to beat the SEC teams, they can’t having glaring holes. Not being able to pass the ball effectively? That’s a pretty big hole.
Now, we must remember, Golson was only a redshirt freshman last year. To be able to start every game at quarterback at such a young age for a team that made the National Championship Game is very impressive. But think about how good the Irish could’ve been if Golson was even more effective.
Golson threw for 2,405 yards with 12 touchdowns and 6 interceptions, with a 58.8% completion percentage. Now compare those numbers with Tony Pike, a fellow quarterback disciple of Brian Kelly’s at Cincinnati. In 2009, Pike threw for 2,520 yards, roughly the same as Golson, but he threw for 29 touchdowns and 6 interceptions while completing 62.4% of his passes. Imagine how much more balanced the Irish offense would’ve been if they had with another 17 touchdown passes.
One thing that’s working in favor of the Irish is that they have a lot of talent and options at quarterback. I’m a firm believer in competition, and there will be plenty of that this spring. Golson isn’t going to just be handed the keys to the offense, especially after his performance in the big game last year. He’s going to have to win the job again, just like he did last summer, beating out the incumbent Tommy Rees. But this time around, his biggest competitor likely won’t be Rees, but freshman Gunner Kiel, who was the top quarterback in the country coming out of high school last year. Kiel has had more than a year now to get acclimated to the college game as well as learn Kelly’s playbook. Big things are expected out of him, and he’s not going to be complacent about watching from the sidelines again. This will be a very interesting battle to watch going through spring ball.
Obviously, Golson has the edge in being named the starting quarterback again. He’s got the talent, and now he’s got the experience. Thus, the standard of play that will be expected of him will be greatly increased. Another season, statistically, like last year won’t be acceptable. The Irish are going to have good line, a good backfield, and a strong receiving corps. All of the talent is there on the offensive side of the ball. The only thing preventing this team from being one of the ten best in the country is quarterback play.
If Golson continues making improvement, as he did through last season, and the Irish develop a relatively strong passing game to counter the very strong running game- you can expect the Irish to be in the thick of things once again this season.