Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson had a spectacular season in 2012 that any redshirt freshman should be proud of—but—the Fighting Irish offense did leave much to be desired.
Golson will undoubtedly start next fall for the Irish, but with 5-star recruit Gunner Kiel finished with his redshirt year and thirsty for a chance to prove himself, Golson will have to elevate his game if he wants to avoid a quarterback controversy that may ultimately see him supplanted by Kiel.
During the 2012 season, Notre Dame's offense ranked a very terrestrial 68th in passing yards. Golson (with the occasional contribution from Tommy Rees) racked up 388 attempts with 226 completions for a completion percentage of 58.2 and a total of 2,896 yards, averaging 7.5 yards per pass attempt.
Juxtapose that with leader Texas Tech, who's quarterback Seth Doege threw 594 attempts with 418 completions for a completion percentage of 70.4 percent, and you can see there is obvious room for improvement.
Obviously, if Notre Dame wants to win a national championship, this is an area it needs to elevate its game. Golson has a decent arm on him, but his confidence in the pocket needs to improve.
On several occasions last season he abandoned plays and scrambled for yardage himself when—had he held in the pocket and kept his eyes down the field for potential receivers—he could have gained several more yards on the play.
All of the blame for Notre Dame's poor showing in passing statistics should not rest solely on Golson, however. Brian Kelly has shown an almost stubborn determination to keep the ball on the ground, even against teams like Alabama who have rock-solid defensive lines.
Clearly, Kelly needs to have confidence in Golson before he will let him risk interceptions on the field, so during his time off Everett would be well advised to work on his passing skills.
If you watched Notre Dame football last season, you know what I'm about to say. Both the Irish defense and offense distinguished themselves in the red zone last season. The defense in a positive way and the offense—not so much!
The Irish ranked 72nd nationally in red zone offense, tying them with the Colorado Buffaloes, who only won one game last season.
Clearly, this is an area where the whole offense needs major improvements, but this article is about Golson so let's focus on him. The Fighting Irish scored only 10 touchdowns via passing inside the 20-yard line, as opposed to the 19 they made via rushing plays.
As I mentioned above, Golson needs to elevate his passing game, but he really needs to get more comfortable in the red zone. While some of this can be attributed to not throwing to the corners enough and not staying in the pocket, I think confidence is a huge factor as well. Golson, understandably, feels the heat inside the 20. This is something he must get over if he wants to see another season on the field.
Ultimately, it really boils down to Golson improving his confidence, staying in the pocket long enough to find receivers, and building Kelly's confidence enough to let him attempt big passing plays on the field.
He has shown enormous potential with his legs, making him a dual threat, but he must improve his passing ability if he plans to continue as the starting quarterback for Notre Dame.
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