SOUTH BEND, Ind. — While Everett Golson returned to Notre Dame ahead of Malik Zaire, there was one aspect of the game in which the sophomore had a leg up on the senior.
Golson never fashioned himself a running quarterback in high school, and admitted he wasn't all too comfortable running read option plays in 2012. Zaire, though, ran the read option quite a bit in high school and quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur said he was "more advanced" than Golson running those plays early on.
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LaFleur said Golson quickly caught on to the concepts of the play, which Robert Griffin III ran to perfection under LaFleur with Washington in the NFL. Golson now knows to not focus on the mesh point with the running back, and has the footwork and vision necessary to successfully run the read option.
"It's second-nature for him now," LaFleur said. "He does it correctly I'd say 95 percent of the time."
Not only does Golson understand how to run the read option, he understands why to run the read option. That's all part of his maturity and growth as not only a quarterback, but as a football mind.
"Let's say you have six blockers and you're trying to block seven (defenders), which you can't, I'm able to run the read option off someone and act as that other blocker in a sense," Golson explained. "I think it allows you to take advantage of the numbers game inside."
It's evident in hearing Golson speak that his football knowledge has grown over the last 18 months. Golson may not be at Tommy Rees' level of football intelligence, but as coach Brian Kelly said, he doesn't have to be given he's more than mobile enough to avoid pass rushes.
While Golson always expected he'd return to Notre Dame a starter, he said he didn't want to be named the team's No. 1 quarterback upon returning to campus or at the beginning of spring and preseason camp. He said he would've pushed himself to improve anyway, but not having the job handed back to him did add something to his motivation.
"I knew it wouldn't be right if it was given to me," Golson said. "I couldn't just come back in and be named the starter. I guess you guys (the media) try to use the BCS things, but at the end of the day that doesn't matter, that was the 2012 team. It's a new era now, so I knew I wasn't just going to come back in and start."