On a Saturday when Notre Dame celebrated 33 seniors playing in front of the home crowd for the final time—going out in style with a 23-13 snow-packed win over BYU—one couldn’t help but think about the future.
2013 isn’t lost by any means, nor has the full picture come into focus. Notre Dame moved to 8-3 with a final regular-season matchup against Stanford looming. Head coach Brian Kelly stressed the importance of this day and what it means to the players following the game.
#NotreDame's Brian Kelly says that you'll get a chance to kiss your mom again, but winning is what you'll remember from Senior Day.— Matt Fortuna (@Matt_Fortuna) November 24, 2013
While there is ample football to be played before these seniors officially hang it up for good, the future is taking shape as the season inches closer toward the end. Given recent off-field developments and on-field development of returning talent, the future is looking bright.
The Notre Dame faithful said goodbye to Tommy Rees only days after we learned that former starter Everett Golson reapplied to Notre Dame. Golson was suspended from the university for the 2013 season for what he called “poor academic judgment,” via WANE.com. He later revealed to Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples that he cheated on a test.
The potential for this return is more of a reality this week, and there’s a possibility Golson could even practice with the team as it preps for its bowl game. Much of this will depend on the timing, although it could be an enormous lift to have him back before spring practice.
Regardless, Golson will be thrown into a quarterback competition with freshman Malik Zaire next season. Senior Andrew Hendrix also has a year of eligibility left that he could use. Brian Kelly touched on the competition this week, courtesy of WNDU.com’s Angelo Di Carlo:
I'm not be cute but that's assuming that Everett is the starter right? We think there is going to be some very good competition for that position with him. Certainly those two young man and we have to sit down with Andrew and where we go from there—and have that conversation with Andrew and find out where we move from there.
The winner should have a handful of intriguing weapons to work with, many of which were on display against BYU in the team’s final home game of the year.
The most intriguing young weapon on Notre Dame is without question freshman running back Tarean Folston. Although Greg Bryant was the higher-rated recruit coming out of high school, Folston has flashed brilliance during the second half of the season.
With ample carries, he was again impressive on Saturday. Folston finished with 13 rushes for 78 yards. He also scored a touchdown. With the development of Bryant and the likely return of Cam McDaniel—who eclipsed the 100-yard mark against BYU—the running back position should be a strength for this team in 2014.
In terms of pass-catchers, there’s plenty to be excited about.
Wideout DaVaris Daniels has come around during his junior season, and he too scored a touchdown on Saturday. Daniels and junior tight end Troy Niklas will only continue to improve if they return, and a return for both seems likely.
For a team that had to replenish its offensive weapons heading into this season, Notre Dame has done just that. Don’t mistake the Irish for Oregon or Baylor just yet, but there’s plenty of intrigue given some of the players set to return. And if Golson can continue to develop and win the Notre Dame job, he will add an element to the offense that Rees couldn’t in his time as caretaker.
There’s no reason to turn the page yet, not with a fascinating matchup against Stanford on deck. But with the likely return of the team’s most dynamic playmaker and offensive weapons coming into their own, there’s plenty to be optimistic about in the future.