Golson takes the reins heading into Year 2

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — With his first spring as The Guy at Notre Dame winding down, Everett Golson is scaling back.

He has had to do this before, whether it was relearning a few things after a rocky home debut last season or spending more time in the athletic trainer's room than he would have liked after his relatively small frame took too many hits throughout 2012.

But with Season 1 as Notre Dame's starting quarterback in the rear-view mirror, with the experience of a national title game under his belt and with outside starting threat Gunner Kiel off to Cincinnati, Golson, at times, simply has not stopped talking.

Now the fun begins for the Fighting Irish offense, a unit that faces at least the possibility of having the same man directing it for 39 more games, this after each of coach Brian Kelly's previous three springs with the program began with quarterback uncertainty.

"I don’t know that you could even put him in the same category with where he started last year to where he is now," Kelly said of Golson. "Strong command of our offense. I think where we’re at with him more than anything else is we have to now begin to pull back a little bit. He wants to do a little bit too much. He knows his toolbox very well. He didn’t know anything relative to what he had for tools last year in terms of what he could do with the offense.

"Now, he wants to maybe do a little too much, so we’re at a totally different point in his development. I think the thing that stands out the most to me, though, is his command. His communication and command and his leadership has been evident as we started spring ball."

Whereas Golson entered last spring as one of four candidates fighting for the starting job, this year, he is being more assertive, taking coaching better and strengthening his relationship with position coach Chuck Martin by exchanging calls and texts or by shooting around on the basketball court when time allows for it.

Golson is becoming a more vocal presence on the field, and he is making the leap in what Kelly hopes will eventually be a quarterback-driven offense.

Notre Dame finished 80th nationally in scoring offense last season, getting to 12-1 in large part on the back of the nation's No. 2 scoring defense and by minimizing the turnover chaos that had plagued it a season earlier.

"I think for me personally it's more on us, just because I expect more of us," said Golson, who netted 2,703 total yards, 18 touchdowns (12 passing, six running) and 10 turnovers while completing better than 58 percent of his throws last season.

"Last year, 2012, we didn't really make our mark. You can kind of blame it on excuses -- it was our fist year going through it -- but at the end of the day, we didn't do our job. So that's definitely an emphasis for me personally to make this offense better and have a better season."

Fifth-year left tackle Zack Martin said of Golson: "Every week he was better, and better not only on the field but in practice with the offensive line, with the other receivers. That's the stuff we see from him on a consistent basis now. We expect Everett to be out front, telling the offense what to do. We expect him to be out there, and he's done a great job this spring."

Golson was listed at 185 pounds last season but was likely 10 or so pounds lighter by the end of the season. Bulking up was deemed a point of emphasis in the months after the Jan. 7 title-game loss to Alabama and a 94-carry season. The third-year sophomore is currently listed as nine pounds shy of the goal of 195.

With Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix back for their fourth seasons, Golson knows there is little time to rest on his laurels, especially after an inaugural starting campaign that saw him get yanked three different times, leave another game with a concussion -- which forced him to miss the next game -- and miss the first series of one more contest because he was late for a meeting.

Golson might not be looking over his shoulder the way he had to a season ago, but that does not make him any less cognizant of what he has to do moving forward.

"I don't think I necessarily think about that a lot," he said. "The No. 1 [position] is only good for so much. You go out there and throw a couple picks, who knows? Maybe it's another controversy again and your job is back up. So my thing was I'll never be complacent. I never want to get complacent. Just always stay hungry and stay driven, and that's how I kind of went through this whole process."