Everett Golson “restored the echoes” in 2012 when he led the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to a perfect regular season before losing emphatically to the Alabama Crimson Tide in the BCS National Championship game. He didn’t get a chance to build on that run in 2013, however, after he was dismissed from school for a violation of the honor code. Golson spent his semester away from South Bend in San Diego working out with quarterback coach George Whitfield and has now completed his application for readmission to Notre Dame for Spring semester and should hear a decision on his future at the school by mid-December. If he comes back to the Irish, will he help them in 2014?
As a redshirt freshman in 2012, Golson started 11 of 13 games for the Irish in their run to the BCS. He completed just 58.8 percent of his passes for 2,405 yards with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions. He posted a quarterback rating of 131.02 while averaging 200.4 yards per game. This season, Tommy Rees stepped into the starter’s role with Golson absent and has completed 54.4 percent of his passes for 2,504 yards with 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in just 10 games. He’s sporting a quarterback rating of 142.80 and is averaging 250.4 yards per game.
In short, Rees has been better under center than Golson was during Notre Dame’s run at a national title. Even when you factor in Golson’s rushing in 2012 when he ran for 298 yards and six touchdown, Rees looks to be the more productive quarterback. Perhaps the season away working with a quarterback coach will give Golson a major boost in production, but the bigger reason for Notre Dame’s success in 2012 was a dominant defense and reliable running game over the play of their young quarterback.
When the Irish were running through the 2012 regular season, they had Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood pacing the offense in the running game while Manti Te’o put together a Heisman Trophy caliber season on defense. All three players are gone this season and it’s caused a noticeable drop-off in the level of play on the field. Next season, Notre Dame will get their top two rushers from this season, George Atkinson III and Cam McDaniel, back as seniors and will need them to step up the production to get the running game on track in 2014.
Defensively, however, things are looking a little more dire. After the group took a major step back from 2012 to 2013, the unit is looking like it will lose a major chunk of their top producers heading into 2014. The top three tacklers on the team in 2013 (Carlos Calabrese, Dan Fox, Bennett Jackson) are all seniors along with defensive line standout Louis Nix III. Stephon Tuitt is just a junior but is highly regarded by NFL scouts and could be gone to the draft after this season. Finding replacements for them will make a much larger impact on Notre Dame’s fortunes next season than the return of Golson under center.
While Everett Golson was the face of Notre Dame’s run to the BCS title game last season, his return in 2014 will not suddenly make them a national title contender overnight. Brian Kelly must build up a team around Golson, particularly on defense, in order to get the Irish back to the top of the college football world.