Golson tabbed as Notre Dame’s starting quarterback

By Matthew DeFranks

The ND Observer, U. Notre Dame via UWIRE

Golson tabbed as Notre Dame’s starting quarterback

While he stood at the podium in the Isban Auditorium on Thursday evening, sophomore quarterback Everett Golson was trending on Twitter — and for good reason.

He was now the starting quarterback at Notre Dame.

After a four-man quarterback race for the second straight season, Irish coach Brian Kelly announced Golson beat junior quarterback Andrew Hendrix and freshman Gunner Kiel for the starting nod against Navy on Sept. 1 in Dublin.

Junior Tommy Rees will serve a one-game suspension for the opener stemming from a May arrest.

“[Everett] won the job,” Kelly said. “Andrew did a great job, made great improvements, really pleased with the progress of both those young men. It was good to see. It was a tough decision, but Everett clearly won the starting job and he’ll be the starter against Navy.”

The six-foot signal caller did not see playing time a year ago after enrolling early in the spring of 2011. Golson did, however, travel with the team last season, when the Irish used three different quarterbacks.

In the season opener last season against South Florida, Kelly pulled then-starter and former Irish quarterback Dayne Crist at halftime after three first-half turnovers and a 16-0 deficit and replaced him with Rees. Kelly said Golson is a player to build around.

“I don’t think you go into a season saying, ‘I want to make a change at halftime.’ You want to be able to stick with a guy and build continuity, especially with a guy who’s got four seasons of competition [left]. You want to build on that,” Kelly said.

The Myrtle Beach, S.C., native started 49 games in high school, racking up 44 wins and 151 touchdown passes. He has not, however, thrown a pass in a collegiate game.

“We’ve prepared the offense for a first-year starter,” Kelly said. “He’s got four seasons of competition remaining. Anytime you’re starting someone with four seasons of competition remaining, you know he’s going to learn more, he’s going to experience more as he plays. We have to make sure we put him in good positions.

“The style of offense we see will be the one he’s most comfortable running. Maybe not as fast of a tempo, but we’re utilizing multiple personnel groupings as a form of attacking the defense. We’re leaning towards the multiple personnel groupings with Everett.”

While Golson’s inexperience poses a challenge, Kelly said he was impressed with his other qualities.

“His poise was really outstanding, [he has] great vision down the field. Those things are really positive, even if you don’t have a lot of experience,” Kelly said.

Last Thursday, Kelly said Golson had only thrown one interception out of 126 pass attempts during training camp. That number has now risen to three, but Kelly said he is not concerned with turnovers.

“If he stays focused, he’s not going to be that guy that turns the football over,” Kelly said.

Kelly said the reps would be split 70-30 between Golson and Hendrix.
Russell, Neal named starters
Golson wasn’t the only first-time starter Kelly announced Thursday.

Freshman cornerback KeiVarae Russell will fill the first-team void left by junior Lo Wood, who was lost for the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon Monday during practice. Wood underwent successful surgery Wednesday.

“There’s always a couple of kids that just have it,” Kelly said of Russell. “He’s so confident in his ability. He’s extremely athletic. He’s picked it up so quickly.

“It was a comfortable transition for him and he’s a really smart kid. All those things pointed in his favor.”

Russell — recruited out of Everett, Wash., as an athlete — will start alongside junior Bennett Jackson, a converted receiver. Kelly said the distinctions between the two cornerback positions (boundary and field) will be blurred because of the inexperience.

“I think we’re going to have to have some flexibility there depending on who we’re playing, what the circumstances are,” Kelly said. “If [USC receiver] Robert Woods is into the boundary, Bennett Jackson will be into the boundary.”

Freshman receiver Davonte’ Neal, meanwhile, will return punts for the Irish, Kelly said.

Last season, Notre Dame returned just 13 punts for 48 yards — with 41 yards coming from former Irish receiver Michael Floyd’s return in the 18-14 Champs Sports Bowl loss to Florida State in December.

Sophomore running back George Atkinson will maintain his kickoff return duties after returning two kicks for touchdowns last year.

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