Regardless of the circumstances, the throne isn't rightfully his to return to.
After missing the 2013 season due to academic exile, Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson has returned to South Bend, Ind. eager to resume a career that began with a trip to the 2013 BCS National Championship Game.
Despite that brilliant start, the starting job won't and shouldn't automatically be Golson's to reclaim.
Those who agonized, begged and pleaded for his return during the Tommy Rees-led 2013 season will consider this stance blasphemous. But in doing so, they have seemingly ignored what head coach Brian Kelly has said regarding the matter since the calendar flipped to 2014, via LaMond Pope of the Chicago Sun-Times:
I know we're always in this rush to move to Everett, but I just want to caution everybody that we have a very good quarterback in Malik Zaire, as well. And I'm not ready to hand everything over to Everett.
While some may view Kelly's comments as simply a public relations move or an attempt to appease Malik Zaire—the redshirt freshman who spent last season developing on the sidelines—they're anything but that.
Whether you want to believe it, a quarterback competition is slowly brewing at Notre Dame.
However, this time around, it's a positive, as the Irish possess the services of three quarterbacks—Golson, Zaire and incoming freshman DeShone Kizer—who fit Kelly's spread offense perfectly. That circumstance has made an easy stroll directly back to the starting job an impossibility for Golson.
No longer will he be chosen simply due to his tremendous mobility and athleticism.
That alone will no longer be Golson's trump card as it was against Rees during the fall of 2012, when Kelly anointed the Myrtle Beach, S.C., native as the Irish's starter despite Rees' 16 career starts prior to that decision.
The end result is that Golson will need to prove that his understanding of the offense and its technicalities is on equal ground with that of his natural talent and playmaking ability.
That in itself is where Golson falls short and may prove to be inferior to that of Zaire's cerebral ability.
In fact, at this time last year, current offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock had plenty of high praise for Zaire's tremendous ability to quickly grasp concepts and basic understandings of the offense.
Thus, if Golson is to beat out Zaire for the starting job, he will need to display a tangible improvement in a few specific areas, particularly reading defenses at the line of scrimmage and adjusting the play accordingly, two areas in which Rees excelled.
Golson's near inability to do so resulted in a pedestrian completion percentage of 58.9 percent in 2012.
For the 6'0", 185-pound junior to take the next step as a quarterback, he must develop a comfort level and confidence at the line of scrimmage, all while learning to be patient in the pocket and read through his progressions—rather than lock on the primary route.
What may ultimately prove as a beneficiary investment of time may be his work with quarterback guru George Whitfield during the course of the fall semester. Having tutored the likes of former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and current Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, the odds would seem to rest with Golson being an improved player in the listed areas in 2014.
Should that assumption prove true, the job may be, in fact, Golson's to lose.
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