Notre Dame spring predictions: No. 1

Our series predicting spring happenings concludes today with No. 1.

Prediction No. 1: Everett Golson looks like a new quarterback

If it's been said once, it's been said a million times: Everett Golson reportedly improved a ton last fall with George Whitfield Jr., from adding weight to tightening his mechanics to, yes, learning to throw the football with the actual laces.

Now Golson is back as the face of Notre Dame's offense. And while coach Brian Kelly insisted that Malik Zaire is very much a factor in the quarterback race, the fact that there are just two scholarship faces in those position meetings this spring should benefit both signal callers.

We all know Golson's credentials: As a redshirt freshman in 2012, the Myrtle Beach, S.C., native completed better than 58 percent of his passes for 2,405 yards with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions, in addition to running for 298 yards and another six scores. He improved down the stretch, helping lift the Irish a 12-0 record and to the national title game, where they were routed by Alabama. Even then, Golson was one of the lone bright spots of the offense. He was handed complete control of the offense last spring and looked ready to take the Irish offense to the next level before his academic mishap cost him the fall semester.

Still, the 2013 semester was, in many ways, a win-win for Notre Dame, which got to tout its academic standards by booting its star while he got professional-style training out in San Diego before his return. Golson was listed at 6-foot-1, 185 pounds in 2012, and he could be closer to 200 pounds by the time spring ball begins. His determination to work his way back to Notre Dame instead of heading elsewhere likely won over whatever remaining doubters there had been in the program. And he still has two seasons left in a Notre Dame uniform.

There will probably be some smoothing out points, as Golson likely hasn't seen anything close to a live college scrimmage in a year. And he won't have the same familiar faces he was throwing to two years ago, especially not this spring, with DaVaris Daniels also stuck in academic purgatory. Kelly has warned Golson about overcoming the bigger spotlight that will certainly accompany him during his comeback tour, and now it is up to the redshirt junior to ease back into the program, refine his skills within the framework of the team and take the next step as one of the leaders of an offense that is seeking new faces to look up to as it enters 2014.

Golson is the perfect candidate to assume that role, and, frankly, it would be surprising if he wasn't a better all-around football player overall by the time this summer rolls around.