A SEMINOLE MOMENT
While there was speculation about several SEC schools as a potential landing spot, former Irish quarterback Everett Golson – who picked up his undergraduate degree Sunday from the Mendoza College of Business at Notre Dame – ultimately chose Florida State, where Seminoles’ head coach Jimbo Fisher welcomed him to the family Tuesday.
“After meeting with Everett, I came away impressed,” Fisher said. “He is extremely intelligent and a very personable young man. It’s a pleasure for us to add him to our Seminole family. We look forward to getting him down here this summer to begin work on helping us continue to be one of the nation’s elite college football programs.”
With Jameis Winston off to the NFL, Golson will compete with junior signalcaller Sean Maguire, who was a modest 25-of-49 for 339 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions when Winston was playing dodge ball with the NCAA.
Ironically, following the loss of wide receiver Rashad Greene (99 catches, 1,365 yards, 7 TDs) and tight end Nick O’Leary (48-618-6), Florida State has a less experienced/established receiving corps than the one Golson would have had at Notre Dame, albeit one with considerable talent.
Five-star recruit Ermon Lane (13-267-1), four-star Travis Rudolph (38-555-4) and three-star Jesus Wilson (42-527-4) represent the foundation of the Florida State wideout corps. Lane and Rudolph are sophomores; Wilson is a junior.
There is no shortage of wide receiver candidates on the Florida State roster, including four-star sophomore Ja’Vonn Harrison, five-star freshman George Campbell, and four-star freshmen Da’Vante Phillips and Auden Tate.
Meanwhile, the Irish bring back five wide receivers for Malik Zaire who combined for 207 receptions, 3,006 yards and 26 touchdowns in ‘14, numbers that predominately belong to junior Will Fuller (76-1,094-15). Of course, those five wideouts established those numbers with Golson throwing them the football.
Obviously, Florida State is equipped to withstand turnovers and still win. Golson threw 14 interceptions and lost eight fumbles last year; Winston threw 18 interceptions and lost a couple of fumbles. That didn’t prevent the Seminoles from winning their first 13 games – including a 31-27 victory over Notre Dame – and participating in the first-ever FBS playoff. By no means, either, was the 2014 Florida State defense one of its better ones.
If you were pulling for Golson to land on his feet at the best, most advantageous spot for him, you should be satisfied. Florida State has plenty of weapons around him to match and even exceed Winston’s numbers, which were comparable in 2014 to his Heisman Trophy-winning campaign in yards and completion percentage, but not touchdown-to-interception ratio.
It will not be a surprise if Golson throws for 3,800-to-4,000 yards with 25-to-30 touchdowns and – because of his gunslinging mentality – double-digit interceptions.
By choosing a premier ACC program, Golson is well insulated with NFL talent. He’s put himself in position to post better numbers than he would have against some of the stingier defenses in the SEC, had he chosen that conference and had the SEC approved the move.
As for winning the job over Maguire, let’s be serious here. Fisher did the right thing by not guaranteeing Golson a starting spot, but Maguire is not going to beat out Golson for the starting spot.
Golson will have to answer questions from the NFL next spring as to why a 23-game starter on a team with 90 percent of its starters returning and a very realistic shot at a playoff spot would go elsewhere. But he’ll also have an impressive statistical resume in hand from Tallahassee that will prompt general managers to look beyond what will be, by that time, ancient history.
The bigger questions will be Golson’s lack of physical stature and whether he can decipher the complex coverage schemes on the NFL level. In the meantime, the aerial attack in Tallahassee remains alive and well.
WEIS…RHYMES WITH HEIST
Fear not, University of Notre Dame supporters, the school will survive the hit.
Although this isn’t news – Irish Illustrated reported it last summer after visiting Weis in Lawrence, Kansas – Notre Dame still owes Charlie Weis more than $2 million in December. That will complete its financial obligation to Weis, who received a 10-year extension after losing to No. 1-ranked USC in 2005.
The final tally: $14,857,379 over five years, and that doesn’t include what he was paid from 2005-09. Now that’s an expensive 35 victories in five seasons, including just 16 over the final 37 games.
Actually, it’s no real surprise that Weis and his handlers pulled it off. Working from a position of strength, Weis leveraged then-Notre Dame athletics director Kevin White into the financial kill in mid-October of 2005 after the Irish fell to 4-2 with a last-second loss to the Trojans.
At the time, there was little reason to believe it was smoke and mirrors. The Irish were in the midst of a two-year offensive run in which Brady Quinn, Jeff Samardzija and others were trashing the Notre Dame offensive record book.
Quinn would complete his four-year career with 95 touchdown passes, which left Terry Hanratty, Joe Theismann, Tom Clements, Joe Montana, Steve Beuerlein, Rick Mirer and Ron Powlus in his fumes.
Quinn’s 95 touchdown passes are an astonishing 34 more than the No. 2 man on Notre Dame’s all-time list -- Tommy Rees (61) -- followed by Jimmy Clausen with 60.
Had Clausen stayed on for a fourth season – which would have coincided with Brian Kelly’s first at Notre Dame – he would have pushed to overtake Quinn’s touchdown mark.
But back to Weis. I’m not clear on the “additional annual payments” to be made to Weis as reported by ESPN.com’s Matt Fortuna. Weis told me in Lawrence last June that Notre Dame owed him one more payment in December of 2015. But suffice it to say that Weis played the system to its fullest. Credit where credit is due to Weis and his people for maximizing the system.
Kansas – which couldn’t get rid of Weis fast enough last fall – still owed him $5.63 million when he was canned. Indeed, it’s Weis as in heist.
It may surprise some to see that Kelly made a little more than $1.1 million from Notre Dame in 2013, but outside resources easily doubles that and probably then some. It’s also interesting to hear that women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw made nearly $270,000 more from the University than Mike Brey, although Notre Dame Sports Properties more than makes up the difference to give Brey about a $150,000 edge on McGraw.
Fear not, fiscally-conscious Notre Dame fans. Notre Dame can take the financial hit, and you’re getting a steal with vice president/athletics director Jack Swarbrick, who reportedly made more than $1,350,000 from Notre Dame in 2013. He’s worth way more than that as it relates to the Notre Dame bottom line.
A ROAD LESS TRAVELED
Having been through nearly three-and-a-half decades of recruiting campaigns, there are more than enough stories/examples of speculation in May that proves inaccurate come February when thousands of prep football prospects sign their letters-of-intent.
Notre Dame could unearth a couple of defensive ends and a pair of safeties from a list of players whose names currently do not appear on the offer sheet or Irish Illustrated’s Master List. Maybe the Irish turn the heads of some of those already on those lists. Sometimes, we over-estimate the legitimacy of recruiting speculation.
But as discussed during Irish Illustrated’s May 18 podcast, the recruiting process is on a breakneck pace compared to just a few years ago, let alone back in the Vinny Cerrato days of recruiting for Lou Holtz’s program when scholarship offers weren’t actually extended until the football banquet in December!
Today, if you snooze, you’re probably going to lose, and as spring is about to turn to summer, Notre Dame faces the need to make up significant ground on the defensive side of the football, otherwise future years are going to show the gap.
It won’t show up in 2015. Notre Dame is loaded on both sides of the football. While the Irish do not have that one, established standout pass rusher, they’ll have a much better defense as a whole with an experienced front seven and numerous youngsters ready to break through. The leadership on the defensive side of the football in 2015 can/will come from several sources.
Long-term, Julian Okwara (Charlotte, N.C.) has a great chance to develop into a dynamic pass rusher, so his verbal commitment early in the process was key. But it’s going to take a few years and many more pounds before that happens.
The ship is sailing on Midwestern prospects Josh King (Darien, Ill.) and Auston Robertson (Fort Wayne, Ind.). Can the Irish land Khalid Kareem (Farmington Hills, Mich.)? It will take that type of recruiting victory to stem the tide at the most important spot on the defensive side of the football.
Notre Dame’s inability to put itself in a more solid position to land safeties is even more perplexing. At least at defensive end, recruiting opponents can point to a stack of young defensive linemen/edge-rusher prospects on the current Notre Dame roster. There is a dearth of safeties on the 2015 roster with the best ones on the verge of walking out the door. Difference-making prospects are difficult to spot, let alone safeties inclined to choose Notre Dame.
The rap on former Irish defensive coordinator Bob Diaco at the end of his four-year tenure at Notre Dame was that he was angling for a head-coaching job more than he was carving out a path on the recruiting trail. But at least Diaco had a track record during his first years working the circuit for Notre Dame.
There has been no such talk of current coordinator Brian VanGorder, who has a ton of ground to cover to help set the foundation for future Irish defenses, which he won’t have to tend to if his eyes are on a return to the NFL and not beating the bushes for difference-making defenders. Defensive backs coach Todd Lyght’s inexperience as a recruiter is another factor to consider as the Irish try to bridge the gap.