Notre Dame Football: Gunner Kiel's Transfer Puts More Pressure on Everett Golson

Randy ChambersAnalyst IMarch 13, 2013

NORMAN, OK - OCTOBER 27:  Everett Golson #5 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish throws against the Oklahoma Sooners at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on October 27, 2012 in Norman, Oklahoma.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

As college football continues to wait on the decision of Notre Dame quarterback Gunner Kiel, you can't help but turn your attention toward current starter Everett Golson. Last week a source confirmed to ESPN that Kiel is in fact going to transfer from the school, cutting that quarterback depth in half the moment a decision is made. 

We knew it was going to come to this eventually.

A logjam at the quarterback position, somebody who was one of the more popular names from the 2012 recruiting class, he has a hard time cracking the depth chart early on. He then realizes that his chances to start are quickly fading away.

Still, this really has nothing to do with the young quarterback who still has so much to prove. This has everything to do with Golson and his ability to lead this football team.

Sure, he was able to show flashes last season and provided enough hope for Irish fans to truly believe he can be the legitimate starter. But with Kiel transferring to a different school, that life raft is now gone. It is now up to Golson or this ship sinks. It is easy to let go of the edge when you are in the area that is only three feet deep, but with Kiel leaving, Golson is being forced to jump in the deep end with no life guard on duty.  

Can he keep the ship afloat? Of course he can. This is somebody who showed more confidence as the season went on, and when he got things rolling, you could start to see the momentum in the game shift.

In the game against Oklahoma, although he wasn't the complete difference-maker in the outcome, you didn't get the feeling that it was a first-year starter you were watching. When he is able to calm down in the pocket and develops a feel for the game, Golson is a completely different player who can be deadly once he gets into that zone.

The hesitation with all of this is that Golson wasn't finding that comfort zone consistently enough last year. Often playing hot and cold throughout the year, he would continuously be pulled by head coach Brian Kelly in the middle of games for poor decision-making.

Not being completely polished is something you should expect from a young player, but the fickle style of play isn't enough to fully convince you that he is ready to have those training wheels removed just yet.

Notre Dame needed a lifeline from backup quarterback Tommy Rees in the game against Purdue. Golson and his shaky play nearly cost the team the game against Michigan. It was Rees who bailed the team out again against Stanford. He even had to help pull off a miracle against Pittsburgh. This doesn't even include the rocky performances against both USC and Alabama late in the year.

With Kiel soon to remove himself from the picture, Golson is forced to iron out all of these wrinkles on his own. He now has full control of this offense, and it will be up to him whether this is a success story or if it takes a turn for the worse.

We have no idea what Kiel could have been as a Notre Dame quarterback. He didn't provide much in last year’s spring game and redshirted last year. However, regardless of what is said about that performance, he wasn't a scrub coming out of high school, and he certainly has the tools to become a successful signal-caller wherever he ends up. At the very least, he provided a security blanket for Golson and the team knowing there is another option at the position.

Andrew Hendrix is a talented backup option, but he is just that. Spending the last couple of years on the bench, there is little chance he is ever thrown into the starting conversation. Rees is still around, but he proved last season that he is best used in situational roles and things could start to go downhill the longer he is left in the game. Malik Zaire is the future of the program, but that doesn't help the Irish right this second.  

No matter what you thought of Kiel from his recruiting antics or his performance in last year’s spring game, he was a valuable option at the most important position if things didn't pan out with Golson in the upcoming year.

We will soon find out whether Golson is going to sink or swim.