And at present, there's but one prevailing criticism of Notre Dame redshirt-freshman Everett Golson: his attention to detail. Unfortunately that's a voluminous category including everything from ball protection to pre-snap reads to decision-making and maturity on a daily basis.
Irish fans won't see Golson on football Saturdays until it's no longer a concern of the main man making personnel decisions.
"I've feel I've progressed tremendously," said Golson of his second spring session when compared to his first semester as an early enrollee last year. "(2011) was nerve-racking. I probably put too much pressure on myself. I'm a little more relaxed and comfortable this spring."
That comfort level is the result of understanding what it means to be a college quarterback at the highest level.
"You have to handle everything on the football field," Golson noted earlier this spring. "Protections, routes, coverages, checks…I struggled with the protection side of it last year. Now I'm getting a grasp of (the moving parts).
"Coach (Chuck) Martin and Coach (Brian) Kelly do a great job in the film room, slowing it down for us so we know what we're doing on every play."
The "us" of course, refers to his trio of competitors, replete with varied strengths and weaknesses, but bonded by a common goal: start for Notre Dame.
"It's great to be part of such an array of quarterbacks. We have everything from pro-style to dual-threat," Golson said when told his head coach hinted two, possibly three quarterbacks could be used in any given game earlier this spring. "Playing time will take care of itself if I do everything I need to do every day."
And therein lies the rub: doing things the same every day.
"When Everett got here it was the ‘unconscious incompetence," said head coach Brian Kelly. "He ‘didn't know he didn't know.' He's grown to a conscience competence. But it's so hard for him every day to be that guy. He's trying so hard. He wants to do it; he will do it. We just wish it was sooner, but it's going to come. He had a good day (Saturday).
"It's almost like we're taking it one day at a time with Everett. He was on time (Golson was late for Friday's practice), he was wide-eyed, he was engaging and he was learning on the field. I love him. I just want to string those days together with him."
Devil in the DetailsLike many early enrollees in the modern game, Golson's first 12 months with the program were riddled with inconsistencies. He could run and throw, but where, when and to who was incongruent with the staff's direction.
"You always come in with a level of confidence that you're ready to do this. Unfortunately for me, it humbled me to redshirt and be on the Scout team," said Golson, the 2011 Scout Team Player of the Year. "I think I've prepared myself and have gone through those duties. I don't regret coming in early at all. It benefited me as far as working against the first team defense, getting used to their speed and the speed of the game. It helped me a lot. It just takes time."
"My first spring I was nervous and wanted to do so much," he continued. "Now I'm more relaxed, knowing the goal and what I have to do to achieve it.
This spring is Golson and the rest of the offense's first with new offensive coordinator Chuck Martin.
"His (focus) is paying attention to the details more," said Martin of Golson. "He sees the field, he probably has a little more natural feel than say an Andrew (Hendrix), but his is the attention to detail, whether its ball security or just sticking to the read. He knows the read, but he has to stick with it. There's a time to ad-lib and make something happen, which he has (the ability)…but there's also a time to stick with the plan and not make up stuff."
Golson appeared relaxed in the spring's only full practice open to the media (Saturday, April 14). From early drills (throwing on the roll) to 7-on-7 action, red zone offense, and finally a live scrimmage, the redshirt-freshman might have enjoyed his best full practice to date.
"Going live gives you a great look at the real thing. When (QBs) have red jerseys and its tag-off, you never really know if you were sacked or if you should have been. Going live simulates the game."
Don't think, just playRealistic game situations were part of Saturday's open practice as Kelly noted it was the first weekend in which the quarterbacks used pre-snap checks (audibles) during the ongoing competition.
"Being an amateur at it, it probably hurt," Golson said half-jokingly of his pre-snap action. "(At first) you just go up there confused. Once you calm down and really understand it, it makes everything a lot easier on you, the wide receivers and the offense as a whole. That means the quarterback has to be decisive, knowing what the checks are and going out and making them."
As for his progress to that end?
"I have to be more consistent. I made improvements today but in order to get to the spot where I can compete for the starting job I definitely have to be more consistent."
That competition won't end regardless of Golson or anyone else's performance in the Blue Gold Game. (It could be argued closed scrimmages are more important to the staff than the glorified annual scrimmage in the Stadium.)
Golson and the rest of the competitive quartet enter the off-season in a similar situation to the start of spring ball: on even ground.
"Knowing the game, that's a big thing for me," said Golson of his plans for improvement. "Knowing how everything works and why everything works. On top of that the mechanics of being the quarterback."
And if he's not named the starter in 2012?
"Sit around another year and work. Just keep trying."