Leader of the Pack

Labeled by his head coach as along for the ride in 2012, the returning triggerman of Notre Dame's offense ranks as the program's most important asset entering 2014.

Senior quarterback Everett Golson understands why Notre Dame's offense plans to push the tempo this year and he's all for it. Or more accurately, he's mostly for it.

With but a hint of a smile at Tuesday's media day gathering inside the Loftus Sports Complex, Golson was asked if he's always preferred an up-tempo form of offense, one that relies less on pre-snap recognition, and more on getting a play called, and going -- regardless of what the defense presents.

"I don't know. I'm more of the type of guy, I like…I like to get my Peyton Manning on," said Golson with but a hint of a smile. "I definitely see the benefits of going fast though. The defense isn't able to show as much, and if they do, it has to be quick. Just that change of tempo allows you to see so much more and it makes it clearer pre-snap."

What's clear to Golson now was admittedly a mystery to him the last time Irish fans saw him between the lines, when "getting his Manning on," wasn't possible.

“I have studied a lot of film now. I am not where I was in 2012," said Golson. "A lot of stuff was new to me (then). I didn’t really know what they wanted in the offense. Now I am able to understand what they want. I am able to understand and have more conversations even with the coaches. I don’t think there is necessarily anybody like (former quarterback) Tommy (Rees) that I would talk to right now, but I definitely talk with the coaches. We bounce ideas off each other."

Golson then bounces his ideas off a collection of neophyte wide receivers. Sans senior DaVaris Daniels, the remaining eight pass catchers have combined for just 46 receptions in their collective careers. Three of the eight have yet to participate in a college contest.

Suspension and the bumps and bruises of training camp have allowed Golson access to his targets that would not otherwise have been possible had a depth chart pecking order been established.

"I think that allows us to have a chance to work together, and now I have something valuable to say to them, because I've worked with them," Golson offered of his progression with the group since returning to the fray this spring. "Really getting hands on with those guys helps the growth of the offense, its depth, and it will make us better over the season."

Notre Dame hopes to be better this season than last largely because of its quarterback. The defense unequivocally will not reach the level of dominance with which Golson worked in congress during his 2012 season. Top 25 level numbers produced by previous defenses of the Kelly regime will be difficult to attain as well.

Points, however, should be aplenty.

“I think in their minds, the faster the better," said offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock of his troops. "I think they like the potential of the explosiveness of keeping the defense on their heels, dictating the tempo of play to the defense instead of being so reactionary. That’s the best way to describe the way we’ve played offense for the past couple years. Maybe we’ve been a little too analytical and precise about being in the exact play at the exact time.

"I think we’ve got playmakers in places where, once they get the ball in space, they’re going to be able to do exciting things with it. So I think tempo and the way that you go about it helps those things.”

Golson has seen it throughout college football and is ready to unleash it in South Bend.

"I think playing fast helps us to catch the defense scrambling," he offered. "You see it a lot with up-tempo offenses like Texas Tech and Clemson. You make it so defenses can't adjust and maybe do all the blitzes they want to do. They stay in base coverages and stuff like that. I guess it's our way of manipulating defenses a little."

The success of modern offenses though lies less in a chosen method of attack than in the performance of the unit's triggerman. Notre Dame's has been spotty for the better part of four seasons, with the then redshirt-freshman Golson of 2012 easily the top competitor in that span.

Two seasons later, has to be much better. In one essential way, he already is.

“One thing that I’ve noticed is his leadership," said first-year quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur. "He took control right from the get-go, not only with the offense, but also with the team. I feel like the guys look to him as a leader.”

And it's his most important role.

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