SOUTH BEND – In late January, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said that Everett Golson would have to earn back the No. 1 quarterback spot when he officially returned to the team for the spring.
It took just one practice for the senior-to-be to seemingly earn his place back atop the depth chart.
Kelly gushed about Golson and how he performed in Monday's first of 15 spring practices for Notre Dame, including his accuracy, intangibles and the fact that he has put on 15 pounds of muscle.
After missing last season due to an academic transgression, the 6-foot, 200-pound Golson appears back on course to be the starting signal caller for the Fighting Irish in the 2014 opener against Rice on Aug. 30.
“I think we all know, with college football and where it is, the quarterback is really going to be the centerpiece of this offense and the way we run it,” Kelly said. “It's going to fall on (Golson). Today was a very good day for him for a first day.”
Kelly went on to talk further about Golson, sounding as if he was dismissing any type of a quarterback battle with sophomore Malik Zaire.
“We're going to heap a lot on this kid's shoulders, and he knows that,” Kelly said. “That's why he came back to Notre Dame, because he wants that opportunity.
“Clearly, he's going to be the guy that drives us.”
Golson talked Monday about ways he has improved since last playing for the Fighting Irish in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game. He also showcased a tighter physique, improved quickness and a bit more velocity on his throws.
“I think (more weight) makes me more durable,” Golson said. “Being 15 pounds heavier, I'm able to still move. I think I actually got a little faster, to be honest. But I feel good at this weight that I'm at.”
With Kelly back to being the full-time play caller with the departure of Chuck Martin, the onus on an up-tempo offense will continue to be paramount. On Monday, Golson displayed that he has lost none of the focus and concentration that comes from running play after play quickly.
However, there is room to grow. The Notre Dame receiving corps features several members that have never caught balls from Golson in an official practice, let alone a game. That inexperience showed at times.
“We're a little bit off on some of those things,” Kelly said. “(Golson's) accuracy was a little off today, because that's really the first time they've been together. In terms of understanding what we want, in terms of the way they competed today, really feel good about all that.”
There is some work to do in the remaining 14 practices as well as summer workouts heading into the fall, but Golson has already convinced his most important critic that he is the guy to lead the Fighting Irish offense.
“Everett stepped in there and the tempo of the offense was outstanding,” Kelly said. “For a first day, it was really exciting for me to watch him be back in there and look as though he was with us last year. (It) really didn't feel like there was a big gap relative to his lack of being here last year.
“Certainly, we would have loved to have him on the team, but I was really pleased with that from an offensive standpoint.”