Notre Dame invested its quarterbacking future in Everett Golson, effectively shunting all other contenders to the side before the 2012 season to get the kinetic, multi-faceted sophomore as prepared as possible to lead the offense both in the present and for years to come.
The immediate result was a trip to the national title game. As of Saturday, any return journey will be made without the Irish’s incumbent starter.
Golson no longer is enrolled at Notre Dame for what two sources told the Tribune was an academic violation. The school officially confirmed Golson is no longer a student but offered no more details, including when or if Golson can return. But a source indicated Sunday that the door is not closed on the quarterback’s possible return to the school at a later date.
It’s believed that Golson’s predicament is similar to those faced by former Irish players Darrin Walls and Gary Gray, which would mean a one-semester banishment with the opportunity to reapply to the school in the future. Both Walls and Gray missed a full semester – not just summer school – after what were reportedly disciplinary issues related to academics.
Both returned to the football team after the time away. That doesn’t mean Golson absolutely would reapply, as other Irish players have run afoul of school discipline and transferred after being booted. But if that model is indeed analogous, it means Golson is gone for at least 2013, undoing everything coach Brian Kelly and his staff had done to secure the position.
There is a logical and seasoned solution on hand, of course, in senior Tommy Rees and his career totals of 4,413 passing yards and 34 passing touchdowns.
Rees appeared in relief of Golson multiple times and playing a key role in saving victories while Golson sorted through early struggles.
But, clearly, Golson’s robust arm and ability to present a running threat were to be the linchpins of the Irish offense moving forward. In his last six games in 2012, Golson threw for an average of 239.5 yards per game with eight of his touchdown passes coming in that span.
In his first year as a starter, Golson joined Joe Theismann (1970) and Jarious Jackson (1999) as the only Irish quarterbacks to pass for more than 2,000 yards and rush for more than 300 in a season.
His understanding of the offense — limited early in 2012 — grew with each start and Kelly even said during spring practice that the staff had reined in Golson’s impulse to devour as much of the playbook as possible.
Now Notre Dame enters a rugged 2013 schedule with questions at nearly every position on offense, perhaps save two spots on the offensive line.
At quarterback, Rees and his 18 career starts offer a solid fallback. Thanks to the offseason transfer of former five-star recruit Gunner Kiel, the backups initially would be veteran Andrew Hendrix and freshman Malik Zaire, who was an early enrollee in January.
By any measure, though, replicating the soaring 2012 season — and improving on the implosion at the end of it in a BCS championship game loss to Alabama — now is substantially more difficult for Notre Dame. It no longer has the quarterback who helped steer it there in the first place.