SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The situation may sound like an oxymoron at first: Notre Dame will try to improve upon last year's mistakes at the quarterback position by starting someone with no collegiate game experience.
Yes, coach Brian Kelly acknowledged Tuesday, Everett Golson will inevitably have a few gaffes. But what hurt the Irish so much in 2011 was the timing of their 17 interceptions and six lost fumbles from the quarterback position.
"He will make mistakes," Kelly said of Golson. "Let's make it clear: He will make mistakes. I think if we really look carefully at the mistakes that we made, they were turnovers in the red zone. They were turnovers in the end zone. They were heightened within the game. He's going to make some mistakes, and we know that and we're going to have to obviously try to overcome those. But it's those poor decisions that we have to eradicate."
Nine of those 23 turnovers came in the red zone, with seven interceptions and two fumbles. Three of those picks occurred in the end zone.
"We think, I think, Coach [Chuck] Martin, our entire offensive staff, feels as though he's disciplined in his approach; that he understands the routine of the quarterback position that he's going to minimize the mistakes," Kelly said of Golson. "Because he's shown that over the past month. If he's not out of character on Saturday, I will safely say, he will do a very good job of taking care of the football. But that's why they play the games. "
Kelly said his concerns are alleviated by the fact he spent more time this preseason with the quarterbacks than he had in five or six years, strengthening communication between the coach and signal callers.
He has been impressed with the way that Golson, a redshirt freshman, has carried himself around the program since being named the starter Thursday.
"I'd say that he understands the role of being a leader in our quarterback position, [which] is one that you know more than anything, that quarterback kind of sets the tone," Kelly said. "And if he comes out there and he's not full of energy and he's not excited, then that has a tendency to kind of filter through the ranks. That's never been the case.
"If he showed that at all during his audition, if you will, for the starting job, he wouldn't get it, because we're not going to beg somebody to be starting quarterback at Notre Dame. He's always had that; Andrew [Hendrix] has that; Tommy [Rees'] always had it, Gunner [Kiel's] will have it. So all these guys understand those nuances as it relates to the position."