The faith of Notre Dame fans has been rewarded, as head coach Brian Kelly named sophomore Everett Golson starting quarterback. Originally reported by NBC Sports's Keith Arnold and confirmed by the Chicago Tribune later in the morning, the announcement of the starter for the Fighting Irish's opener against Navy in Dublin was made after practice Thursday.
Golson, who redshirted last year, was in a race with junior Andrew Hendrix and highly-touted freshman Gunner Kiel. Returning starter Tommy Rees was eliminated from contention following a one-game suspension announced in July. Due to injury and turnover problems, the Irish have cycled through four different quarterbacks since Kelly took over prior to the 2010 season. Hendrix and Rees are still on the roster, while snake-bitten five-star recruit Dayne Crist transferred to Kansas (joining former Irish coach Charlie Weis) and Nate Montana moved on to Montana (and then left that program).
Originally a North Carolina verbal commitment, Golson flipped to the Irish during the fall of 2010. A man of many talents, Golson led Myrtle Beach High School to state titles in both football (over South Carolina defensive phenom Jadeveon Clowney) and basketball (as point guard) while being such a talented musician that his high school orchestra teacher broke down in tears when she learned he was dropping her class. There was talk of Golson getting on the field last fall, but Kelly was patient, letting the freshman adjust to the difficulties of a college curriculum while playing on the scout team. The South Bend Tribune's Eric Hansen had a tremendous profile of Golson last weekend which discussed his first autumn on campus:
"I thought I was ready to compete for the starting spot," said Golson, the sixth-most prolific TD thrower in U.S. high school history. "Going through fall camp, I kind of saw my reps go down a little bit. I was a little bit discouraged at first.
"It kind of humbled me. Now, that I look back at it, I'm glad I went down to the scout team, 'cause it made me realize I have to start at ground zero and work my way back up."
"What helped me tremendously was grinding in the film room," Golson said, "being persistent, for long hours, knowing I have to get this in order for me to have a chance to be the starting quarterback.
Notre Dame fans have been waiting for the Golson announcement for a long while after suffering through some maddening turnovers during last season's 8-5 campaign. Rees, Crist and Hendrix combined for 23 of the Irish's 29 giveaways last year, many of them coming at the worst possible times for a team that featured a slew of talented players at the skill positions (receiver Michael Floyd went 13th overall in this spring's NFL draft, and many experts predict tight end Tyler Eifert to also be selected in the first round after this season).
Positives for Golson are his considerable arm strength (check out the first throw on this highlight reel) and mobility that should further open up the Irish rushing attack. Potentially working against Golson is his size (listed at 6'0, 185 by the school), although he's been studying other undersized signal-callers like Russell Wilson and Drew Brees to mitigate any problems caused by his height. There will almost assuredly be growing pains, especially against a tough schedule that includes trips to Michigan State, Oklahoma and USC, but Kelly is going with the potential upside of a quarterback that could start to make his offense look a lot like the Cincinnati buzzsaws that helped earn him the top job in South Bend.
And should Golson falter or fall victim to injury? Well, the quarterback carousel that's been going on at Notre Dame since Jimmy Clausen went to the pros will roll on, much to the chagrin of blue-and-gold partisans everywhere.