Everett Golson intends to return to Notre Dame, and if he can, coach Brian Kelly is ready to welcome his starting quarterback back into the fold.
In the meantime, it's not known what Golson can and can't do in the fall, only that he won't be part of Notre Dame's 2013 squad. But Kelly thinks Golson has already taken the first step toward returning in 2014.
"I think he started, in my eyes, by accepting responsibility," Kelly said. "And once you accept responsibility, in my eyes, and you follow through on what's asked of you relative to month after month, then that's all I need to see from Everett. And then it's back to work."
Golson had a few seemingly-defining moments in 2012, as he guided the Irish to a 12-0 regular season and berth in the BCS Championship. Perhaps none stand out more than the 50-yard strike he threw to Chris Brown, setting up Notre Dame's win at Oklahoma.
Kelly, though, thinks if Golson can push through the adversity he's dealing with now, his return in 2014 will bigger than anything he accomplished in 2012.
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"I think Everett's going to take this and I think it's really going to be truly his defining moment, that he's going to grow and live and learn from this mistake," Kelly said. "I have a great deal of confidence that we're going to see a young man back here at Notre Dame. I'm hopeful of that. That's up to him and what the university has in front of him. I always look in the positives and I believe this is going to be an opportunity for Everett to really grow."
In the interim, though, Kelly is faced with having to start either Tommy Rees, Andrew Hendrix or Malik Zaire for the 2013 season. Rees has the most experience, and while Zaire has plenty of talent Kelly hinted any talk of the true freshman starting in the fall is premature.
If Rees is the guy, he'll have to perform better than he did the last time he saw consistent starting action. In 2011, Rees threw 14 interceptions in 13 games, with many of those crippling the Irish in an 8-5 season.
"Tommy knows exactly what the expectations are for him," Kelly said. "And he was a huge part of our undefeated season, he's going to be a part of this season as well. … And just like a guy who can't make tackles, he's probably not going to be on the field if he can't tackle -- and you're probably not going to be on the field if you throw interceptions, whether you're Tommy Rees or Malik Zaire or Everett Golson. That's pretty established in our program as to what the expectations are."
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While the well-respected Rees may be Notre Dame's best option for 2013, Golson's absence throws a wrench in what Kelly is trying to build in South Bend. The hope for Golson was he'd take the next step in the fall, becoming a quarterback who could actually win Notre Dame a few games.
"It's going to be a challenge, but one that we think we can overcome," Kelly said. "That's what these kids are about. They overcame a lot last year, and they'll continue to do it this year regardless of who's at that quarterback position."
Notre Dame bites
-- Kelly gave a non-answer when asked about the status of Eddie Vanderdoes, a blue-chip defensive tackle recruit who's reportedly wavering on his commitment to Notre Dame.
"It's just like all of our guys: We expect all of our guys in in June, but until they're here my policy has been pretty standard on that one, I don't get too much involved in who's not here," Kelly said. "None of those freshmen are here yet. We'll see who shows up. There's always a surprise or two. We hope they're all here when they're asked to report in June."
-- When asked if contacting Gunner Kiel about a return -- before the ex-Irish quarterback reaffirmed he isn't leaving Cincinnati -- was ever on the table, Kelly said:
"No. That's not something that I've ever done, nor would I do. I'm going to coach the guys who want to be here at Notre Dame. Gunner had his reasons for not wanting to be here. I think you guys know me well enough, I'm going to coach the guys who want to be here at Notre Dame."