2013 review: With Everett Golson expelled and Tommy Rees back at the helm, Notre Dame won nine games and wasn't a serious contender for a BCS bowl, let alone a repeat berth in the BCS Championship.
But Rees was the best option the Irish had -- Andrew Hendrix was ineffective in relief of Rees Oct. 19 against USC, and Malik Zaire wasn't ready, no matter how loud the clamoring from fans got for the talented freshman to see the field. And even had former five-star recruit Gunner Kiel stuck around South Bend, chances are Rees still would've been the guy.
Departures: Tommy Rees, Andrew Hendrix
Arrivals: Everett Golson, DeShone Kizer
2014 outlook: With Golson returning from exile, Notre Dame should have much more success out of its quarterback position than in 2013. Golson's mobility and arm strength were sorely missed last fall, as Rees was able Notre Dame's offense into the right looks but often couldn't make the throws. Golson has added about 15 pounds to his frame and refined his mechanics with quarterback guru George Whitfield, though he'll have gone about 20 months without playing competitively when he takes the field against Rice Aug. 30.
Golson isn't guaranteed his starting spot back, though it'd be an upset if Zaire beat him out for the job. At the least, Notre Dame will have plenty of talent at quarterback this coming fall, with Zaire likely backing up Golson and Kizer -- a four-star verbal commit in Notre Dame's upcoming recruiting class -- taking a redshirt year.
X-Factor: Much was made about Notre Dame's lack of success running empty sets with a non-mobile quarterback in 2013, though the more important gain for the Irish with Golson back will be his arm strength. When Notre Dame needed a big play in 2012 at Oklahoma, it was Golson who fired a 50-yard strike to Chris Brown to propel the Irish to a statement victory. Golson's heave to DaVaris Daniels the next week helped save Notre Dame from a championship-dooming loss to Pitt, too.
Notre Dame wasn't blown out in any of its four 2013 losses, and most players felt they were a play or two away from swinging the outcome in their favor. Golson's someone who can make those game-changing plays.