Practice Observations: Everett Golson

Part II of our observations from Wednesday's open practice examines the team's quarterback race between Everett Golson, Andrew Hendrix, and Gunner Kiel, with a pass-by-pass breakdown of Golson, today's first-unit QB.

For part one of our practice reports, Click Here.

Differentiating QB1 and QB2 is an exercise in futility in early August, especially considering Notre Dame's first padded practice was just the fifth of 29 scheduled training camp sessions, but the following statement offers only fact, with no editorializing necessary:

- Everett Golson took every live rep with the team's first string offensive line.
- Andrew Hendrix took the bulk of the reps with the second string offensive front.
- Gunner Kiel's reps were split between the second and third unit.
- Each QB benefitted from a rotation of tight ends, running backs, and receivers (no defined units for most team-vs. team sessions).
- Tommy Rees did not take a live rep, at least following early sessions in which the quarterbacks throw at a net.

And head coach Brian Kelly noted in his post-practice press conference that Rees' inactivity was representative of training camps previous four practice sessions as well:

"Pretty typical. His work is done in the classroom," said Kelly. His work is done really working with the quarterbacks. He's got a lot of experience, played a lot of games, so when we call a particular route he can give insight. It's been very valuable."

Now that everyone has had a full three seconds to overreact to events on August 8, I'll get on with the opinion section of the column and a review of Everett Golson.

Golson: 7-on-7, Goal Line, and controlled 11-on-11

One key for Golson will be stepping up his game during instructional sessions as twice during skeleton drills (no defense and with pre-determined routes/adjustments), Golson missed his receiver, throwing behind a crossing Alex Welch rolling left, and then far short of Chris Brown downfield rolling right. Head coach Brian Kelly offered of the latter, "Where are you throwing?"

Golson's accuracy on quick slants is impressive. He hit T.J. Jones for a touchdown during 7-on-7 drills from the 5-yard line and did the same on a deeper slant (call it a short post) to Welch vs. Dan McCarthy. He followed that with a beautiful fade pass to Toma in the deep right corner for another score. Golson later threw one fade out of bounds but came back to fire a strike to Troy Niklas inside. Niklas ran a slant through press coverage by physical but undersized Chris Salvi in man coverage and made an effortless hands catch of a Golson bullet.

Golson kicked off 11-on-11 (with the benefit of the first team offensive line against the second unit defense) by hitting Cierre Wood in stride 20 yards downfield on a seam route. Wood would have scored in a full game setting.

He then connected with DaVaris Daniels on a short hook route; under threw John Goodman, and wisely through one under pressure out of bounds. Golson found Davonte Neal on a short out and Daniel Smith on a perfectly thrown "stop-fade" or what is now referred to as a "back-shoulder" throw vs. shorter freshman cornerback Keivarae Russell.

Golson came back to throw a rolling out to the sidelines that bounced off the hands and chest of Robby Toma, a beautiful pass on the move with plenty of zip. Next was a comeback completion to T.J. Jones on the far hash and a quick bootleg throw underneath to Ben Koyack for a short gain. He then fired a nice low out-route vs. solid coverage (Russell) to Jones, but Jones slipped and couldn't reel in the thus difficult reception.

In another 7-on-7 session, Golson through a great corner route to Jones vs. solid coverage by Lo Wood (complete), and after a check down sideline throw to Toma, hit freshman Chris Brown on a perfectly thrown post route touchdown, though Brown had created a solid 7 yards of space between himself and trailing cornerback Cam McDaniel. (Had Golson missed, it would have been inexcusable).

He later completed a deep post to Jones who put a vicious stutter move on double coverage from walk-on Joe Romano and freshman safety John Turner. Golson hit Brown on a post-corner with a nice pass but Brown couldn't reel it in while contending with the sideline (it might have been too far outside, I was 50 yards away).

His next 7-on-7 throws included a low completion to Tyler Eifert vs. Bennett Jackson, a bullet comeback to Eifert for a short gain, and an arrow route to Davonte Neal, who took on a solid hit from Jarrett Grace. After a check down to Toma, Golson hit Daniel Smith on a high comeback on which Jalen Brown broke to break up the play.

Golson showed field presence on a short scramble throw to George Atkinson that was low and away (complete, nice catch) vs. excellent downfield coverage by Dan Fox. He wisely checked down to flare routes on consecutive plays, threw-away another when pressured by Ishaq Williams, and hit Chris Brown in traffic on a "Real Man Route" the dig to the middle of the zone defense.

Scrimmage: Good, Bad, Groundhog Day

The live 11-on-11 scrimmage was less kind to Golson. Of course, the constant first-team defense might have had something to do with his struggles following accurate sessions during the bulk of practice.

  • Golson began the live scrimmage with a first-down throw-away after Ben Councell came unblocked from his Dog linebacker position (field side). Golson was likely supposed to check a blitz pickup here…

  • An out to Troy Niklas (a load after the catch) and a throw-away when flushed to his right by Kapron Lewis-Moore was followed by a 3rd down situation (medium yardage needed for 1st), with Manti Te'o breaking up a downfield seam pass. On 4th down, Golson hit Robby Toma for a slip-screen from the slot position and a 10-yard gain.

  • After an undetermined penalty put the offense in 1st and 15, Golson has his screen pass picked off by Lewis-Moore. Golson told the media later that not only did Lewis-Moore pick off the screen, but he called the play as it progressed post-snap.

Golson's second series was frustrating though not without promise:

  • After an impressive bounce-outside run by George Atkinson (more on this in the full offense review to be posted tomorrow), Golson missed short a check down throw to Jake Golic thanks to pressure by Councell. His ensuing left-side rollout resulted in a first down throw to Niklas followed by an inside handoff to freshman Will Mahone (gains 4 yards).

  • In a scene reminiscent of last spring, Golson receives an earful from his head coach, apparently regarding confusion from the play signaled in from the sidelines. Though most of the conversation isn't' audible, Kelly began the conversation with, "Come Here…RUN!" and ended it with "It's never been anything else…" likely dismissing Golson's side of the conversation.

  • Golson drops the ensuing snap under center, the whistle blows the play dead (he picked it up and was running).

  • Fully leaving the pocket for the first time, Golson gains 7 when Niklas couldn't clear zone coverage.

  • A tunnel screen to Neal results in a short gain and nice solo stop by freshman safety John Turner

  • Golson then lowers his arm angle on an athletic zip pass from the middle of the pocket to the right sideline for a 5-yard gain, setting up (about) 3rd and 4.

  • His third-down throw to Golic is broken up by Dan Fox, as is his fourth-down and final pass of the day as Fox drops expertly down the seam to deflect a pass that would have kept the drive alive.

The defense celebrates getting off the field for the fourth time in as many series without a score. Which reminds me, check back for Part II of our quarterback breakdown and a look at Andrew Hendrix and Gunner Kiel.

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