The career of Everett Golson is back on track. His coaches have a message, though: Don’t get too comfortable.
In explaining his decision Wednesday to name Golson the quarterback for the season opener – a decision that had been anticipated for weeks – Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly kept up a bit of uncertainty by refusing to commit to the senior beyond Week 1.
“There will continue to be competition,” Kelly said. “We hope he’s the starter for the entire year, but we have to win, and Everett knows that.”
Golson got the nod over Malik Zaire, which was an obvious move because of Zaire’s inexperience and since Golson led the Irish to the BCS national title game in 2012.
Despite the lack of a long-term commitment to Golson, Kelly all but ruled out the possibility of using the shifty, left-handed Zaire as a change-of-pace quarterback.
“We’re not looking to play two quarterbacks,” Kelly said. “We’ve got one starter.”
After missing all of last season because of an academic impropriety, Golson could still end up being the face of the program – a role he was supposed to inherit, once upon a time, from Manti Te’o.
Kelly cited leadership as one of the main reasons Golson got his job back.
“It was understanding the bigger picture,” Kelly said.
Golson completed 187 of 318 passes in 2012 for a 58.8 completion percentage, with 12 touchdown passes and six interceptions. He had a pass efficiency rating of 131.01, placing him 62nd among quarterbacks nationwide. He also ran for 298 yards on 94 carries.
He took the news in stride.
“It’s a heightened responsibility,” Golson said. “I understand the task at hand. I tried to prepare like the starter. Coach Kelly saw my control of the huddle.
“You feel that sense of accomplishment, but that job is not something solid. You come out Week 1 and play bad, it’s up for grabs.”
As for Zaire, Golson expects the sophomore to develop into one of the nation’s top quarterbacks.
“Malik is tremendous,” Golson said. “When he does get on the field, he’s going to shine. We do have that relationship where I can talk to him about things.”
Zaire, who did not meet with reporters and was understandably disappointed according to Kelly, will be the No. 2 quarterback against Rice on Aug. 30.
Kelly allowed Zaire to push Golson in a summer-long competition that always felt like it would ultimately belong to the latter.
“My mindset was to try to get better,” Golson said. “I didn’t have the spring game I wanted to have. My goal was to become more of a leader.”
Golson said he was too focused on moving forward to look back much on the suspension.
But he made clear he comes back a different player.
“It’s me taking responsibility as one of those senior leaders,” Golson said. “In 2012, we had those guys, Manti, (so) that it was hard for me to crack into that level.
“It’s completely different (now). This is my team.”