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March 25, 2012

Golson a couple steps closer

It's far from easy, but it's easier.

The booming voice of criticism is still unsettling, but not as much as it was last spring.

The multiplicity of pass protections, routes and coverages is no less complex, but a lot more understandable.

The footwork isn't perfect, but it's better.

For Everett Golson to have won the starting quarterback at job at Notre Dame last spring/fall, he would have had to have gone from Point A to Point Z in a couple of elongated leaps.

It doesn't usually work that way; it didn't for Golson.

"Being that it is my second spring, the experience helps," said the 6-foot-0, 185-pounder from Myrtle Beach, S.C., who was an early enrollee in the spring of '11. "In the first spring, I was nervous and wanted to do so much. But the second spring, I came in a little more relaxed and knew what the goal was and knew what I had to do to achieve."

The first time through was like being caught in the eye of a hurricane.

"I guess for a quarterback, the most difficult part is handling . . . everything," Golson said. "When you're on the field, it's your offense. You have to know protections, routes, what the coverages (are), everything. Last year I struggled with the protection side of it. I struggled with that a lot, but I'm getting a grasp of it now."

Yet when you ask him what prompts Brian Kelly to erupt more than any other aspect of his game, Golson doesn't hesitate.

"Footwork," said Golson, breaking into a laugh. "I would probably say footwork."

All the technical aspects of the game aside, the Irish coaching staff - mainly Kelly and new offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Chuck Martin - has much greater expectations for Golson and his fellow quarterbacks this time through. They have a problem on their hands, and that's coming up with a solution at a position that was fraught with game-changing mistakes throughout the up-and-down 2011 season.

Entering year three of the Kelly regime, reasons for failure at the quarterback position will fall upon deaf ears, even if Tommy Rees is the only quarterback among Andrew Hendrix, Golson and Gunner Kiel with any starting experience. And thus, the added urgency at the position.

For his part, Golson is much better prepared to compete for the starting job -- or at least playing time -- than at any point in 2011, due in part to the learning process during his first year at Notre Dame.

"I would say I've progressed tremendously," Golson said. "Last year was more nerve-racking for me. I felt like I put a little too much pressure on myself. But now, coming into the spring, I feel a little more relaxed and comfortable.

"Sitting out last year was a blessing. Being on the scout team and going against the first-team defense helped me out a lot. I got used to the speed of the game. The only thing I was lacking after that was the footwork, just because I didn't have a coach with me right there. As far as getting used to the speed of the game and seeing defenses, that helped me out tremendously."

Yet rarely is any aspect of the game mastered, even the center-quarterback exchange, which wasn't executed smoothly during a couple of Golson's live snaps at the end of Saturday's practice.

One thing seems fairly certain, however, now that the Irish don't have to worry about preserving Golson's eligibility: Kelly and his staff will find a role for this dynamic pass-run threat, whether it's as a starter, or as a change of pace off the bench.

"I have not arrived yet at all," Golson said. "I'm just gaining a little more knowledge than I had last year. But I think I can be the starter. You've just got to come every day willing to work and compete.

"Whenever (Kelly) is yelling, you've just got to stay positive. He does that to simulate game-time situations with the crowd and everything. It's definitely a challenge dealing with it. But at the end day, you've just got to do it."

And if Golson doesn't come out on top in the competition for the quarterback job . . .

"I'm going to sit around another year and work," said Golson, breaking into a grin. "I'm just going to keep trying . . . just keep trying."

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