It took less than 24 hours to learn the fate of Everett Golson. The rising redshirt sophomore quarterback was rumored to be expelled from Notre Dame---that is kicked out and never coming back---but the sentence handed down isn't quite that bad. According to a report by ESPN Golson has been suspended by the University for the academic Fall semester which means he won't be the Irish quarterback this season and loses a year of eligibility.
Golson released the following statement:
"I have been informed by the University of Notre Dame that due to my poor academic judgment that I have been suspended from the University for the 2013 Fall Term," Golson said. "I take full responsibility for my poor choices and will do all that is asked of me to regain the trust of my family, friends, teammates, coaches and the entire Notre Dame community."
"My parents and the community I grew up in have instilled values in me that have and will continue to allow me to be successful in the future," he said. "There have been many lessons learned as I worked to become the starting quarterback at Notre Dame and each was a result of coach [Brian] Kelly's belief in me as an athlete and a person.
"At this point, I understand how my integrity could be in question but I want to reassure my supporters that through this experience I will return a better student athlete as well as a better individual.
"Lastly, I want to thank the University of Notre Dame for the opportunity already granted and also the opportunity going forth to regain my eligibility in the winter of 2014."
Like other football players who've put themselves in this similar situation I would expect Golson to spend the summer and fall taking classes at a school near his home as part of the plan to earn his way back to Notre Dame.
So what does the future hold for the Irish football team?
First let's start with freshman Malik Zaire who has been with the program since January and had a nice spring. He was progressing comfortably and in line for a season running the scout team but now things have changed. However, I'd be surprised if Zaire somehow ends up starting this fall, at any point. Anything can happen of course and Zaire may be the type of quarterback (mobile, well-built, smart) who could pull it off but I'm not expecting it.
Malik goes from 100% redshirt to something significantly less with 3 scholarship quarterbacks now on the roster. With the prospect of Golson never returning the coaching staff really wouldn't have much of a choice but to get Zaire's feet wet in preparation for becoming the likely 2014 starter. If Golson stays on track academically while away from Notre Dame I don't think Kelly needs Zaire to play this fall, so yes I think he can still redshirt.
Then again they probably can't absolutely guarantee that Golson is coming back so that has to factor into the decision this fall as well.
Who's excited for Tommy Rees to be the starting quarterback again? Not me, but it could be worse. 18 career starts, over 600 passing attempts, and ice water in his veins---could be worse.
That doesn't diminish the loss of Golson for 2013 and I'm certain the team won't be as good this year. I'm just not sure that this portends disaster for the Irish.
Some brief thoughts on a Rees-led offense and ways to be productive:
1. Decrease the turnovers
This is about as obvious as can be but it really needs to happen for Tommy Rees as a senior.
2. Increase the tempo on offense
Not just a little bit, but a lot. Why not? Sure Rees can't run but isn't that the point? Get out there, move quickly, and don't give teams the ability to get set---particularly when running the ball on 1st down.
3. Perfect constraint plays
We're already hearing the laments about Rees being the starter again. "The book is written on him and all the opponents know it." Well, we know opponents are going to cheat on Rees in certain situations so let's develop constraint plays and make them pay.
Use that motion we saw so much against BYU and actually make the bubble screen an effective part of the offense.
4. Develop dynamic offensive weapons
Still more lamenting that Rees won't have Floyd or Eifert to lean on but Jones and Daniels are a nice 1-2 punch at receiver. However, now more than ever players like Atkinson, Carlisle, Bryant, Folston, and Prosise need to step up and become dangerous with the ball in their hands.
Some might disagree but I think in order to be successful as possible with Rees at quarterback then the offense needs to become more West Virginia-y not conservative and afraid (I mean that in a good way!) like it was last year. Tommy won't be able to run, he can't consistently work the deep ball, and we know defenses are going to crowd the box on early downs. I don't think running the 2012 offense is going to work without Golson's playmaking ability back there. What should work best is getting the ball in to the hands of Carlisle, Atkinson & Co. and let them beat guys in space.
So where does this leave Andrew Hendrix? I can't see him ever becoming The Guy but that doesn't mean he won't be one Rees injury away from being the starter or that he won't be involved in the offense as a backup.
I guess the more pertinent questions are, how much room can Zaire make up between him and Hendrix and how much of a priority is it keep the Voodoo Child around in 2014? If he can't beat out Golson or Rees and his development has been stunted for whatever reason(s) at some point you have to wonder what the point is.
Next Spring & Beyond
I can feel the disappointment in the hearts of many who thought the Irish were primed for another national title run this fall. We tend to see the arc of a program ascending ever-upward or conversely descending toward another ultimate coaching search. For many fans of the program, Notre Dame appeared firmly entrenched in the former category and losing Golson is a major blow to the momentum built since late 2011.
Here's the thing though...even after 2012 I'm not ready to expect another similar type of season. To echo my comments above it's not the end of the world if the Irish finish 9-3 this season especially without Golson. Maybe that sounds like "let's just get through this year" but it's not. We'll be okay this fall, the team still has a lot of talent, and we still get to look forward to about a dozen new players making their mark in 2013.
I've seen a lot of people saying this is Zaire's team now---and definitely for 2014 and beyond---and I'd just like to pull back the reigns on that a little bit. If he comes in this fall and actually grabs the starting job (through whatever means) and then plays well for a true freshman then we'll talk about him being The Future.
God willing Golson rededicates himself and is back with the program in January---just 7 months from now. If he stays on track and comes back I expect him to regain the starting quarterback position after spring ball. Don't go sleeping on a Golson comeback.
As far as Hendrix, his future may be decided by factors outside his control a little bit. His amount of playing time may depend upon the development of Zaire and Hendrix' return in 2014 (if he wants to come back) may depend upon how well the Irish recruit this cycle.
I'm not going to complain about a QB unit of Golson, Zaire, Kyle Allen, and Brandon Dawkins. Until proven otherwise the return of Hendrix is something that I can take or leave.
For Golson, some tips: Hit the books, the gym, and drink a lot of milkshakes. He should take advantage of this break to bulk up and put on a lot of muscle.