Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - After posting an undefeated regular season
and earning a berth in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game, the Notre Dame
football program had plenty of reason for optimism as it looked ahead to the
However, the Fighting Irish were delivered an unexpected blow earlier this
week when it was announced that starting quarterback Everett Golson is
academically ineligible for the fall semester.
Golson addressed his suspension in a statement released by the school.
"I have been informed by the University of Notre Dame that due to my poor
academic judgement 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."
"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," the statement continued. "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."
Following Golson's suspension, rumors of his inevitable transfer began to
swirl, with CBSSports.com reporting that an unknown SEC coach was in contact
with him over the weekend. However, although nothing is official, it appears
Golson will ride out his suspension and return to the team in 2014 to finish
his remaining two years of eligibility.
"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," Golson said.
While the Irish will certainly welcome Golson's eventual return to the
football field, who will take the reins under center this season?
As a redshirt freshman in 2012, Golson made his claim to the starting job
early on and put together impressive dual-threat numbers, finishing the season
by completing 58.8 percent of his passes for 2,405 yards with 12 touchdowns
against only six interceptions. He also added nearly 300 rushing yards and six
more scores on the ground.
While his production will surely be missed, the cupboard isn't completely bare
in South Bend. At this time last year, the Irish were also unsure of who their
signal-caller would be, and after starting the season ranked outside the AP
Top-25, they pieced together a fantastic season.
The way Brian Kelly's offense is constructed -- nearly 54 percent of his plays
in 2012 were rushing - the quarterback isn't always the focal point, so
another strong season with a fresh gun-slinger isn't out of the question.
After the departure last month of former high school All-American Gunner Kiel,
who transferred to Cincinnati after being buried on the Notre Dame depth chart
as a freshman in 2012, Kelly has just three quarterbacks on the roster. Now
he'll just need to decide whether Tommy Rees, Andrew Hendrix or Malik Zaire
will be the answer.
Rees appears to be the overwhelming leader at this point, as the senior brings
plenty of experience to the table. He was the starter as a sophomore in 2011,
amassing a solid campaign (.655 completion percentage, 2,871 yards, 20 TDs, 14
INTs). Last season, he filled in for an injured Golson on Oct. 20 against BYU,
and while he was impressive at times (117 yards, TD), he was inefficient
overall (7-of-16, INT).
The competition is far from over, however. Just as Golson swooped in and took
the job from Rees in 2012, someone else can do the same in 2013.
Hendrix, also a senior, has certainly paid his dues, but he has attempted just
44 passes in his career. He also failed to capitalize on his opportunity
during Notre Dame's spring game last month, completing just 5-of-10 tosses for
59 yards while being sacked three times.
The wildcard is Zaire, who enters the season as a true freshman. He was
expected to designate a redshirt behind Golson this year, but now he will be
thrown into the fire with a chance to win the job outright. Zaire was a top
recruit out of Archbishop Alter High School in Kettering, Ohio and is said to
have a similar skill set as Golson, and while it's unlikely he'll have enough
of a grasp on the playbook to be named the starter by Notre Dame's opener at
home versus Temple on Aug. 31, Kelly could be turning to him sooner rather
than later if Rees or Hendrix fail to perform.
Fortunately for the Irish, they still retain plenty of talent to help mask
their potential deficiencies at quarterback. Even with the loss of Manti Te'o,
the defense will still be among the best around, with Stephon Tuitt (13 TFL,
12 sacks), Prince Shembo (10.5 TFL, 7.5 sacks) and Louis Nix III (50 tackles,
7.5 TFL) expected to put up big numbers once again. The team is also very
strong along the offensive line, with experienced seniors at left tackle (Zack
Martin), right tackle (Christian Lombard) and left guard (Chris Watt), all of
whom will do their best to protect their signal caller, as well as create
holes for a running game that averaged 4.9 yards per carry a season ago.
Golson's absence has caused a ripple effect not only in the Notre Dame locker
room but throughout college football, as now Notre Dame has gone from a clear
BCS contender to a huge question mark, However, it would be foolish to count
out Kelly and his crew this early in the process.
The Irish blazed a trail across the FBS landscape in 2012, and there is no
reason to believe they can't
do it again.
The Sports Network