NOTRE DAME — Everett Golson still plays the piano.
He still loves basketball. He still stays away from social media websites like Twitter.
That much hasn’t changed for the soon-to-be redshirt sophomore.
But something about leading a Notre Dame team to an undefeated regular season and a national championship appearance as a freshman changes a young quarterback in some ways.
For Golson, that involves both bulking up in the weight room and settling down on the field.
“Last year was a learning process,” he said during a post-practice interview on March 22. “This year is more me becoming that leader and getting everyone else on the same page.”
A year ago, Golson was fourth on the depth chart behind incumbent starter Tommy Rees, the rising Andrew Hendrix and the incoming freshman phenom Gunner Kiel. This year, Kiel is gone and Rees and Hendrix are firmly cemented at No. 2 and 3.
Golson can breathe slightly easier, but not much.
“There’s a competition,” Golson said. “Just because I’m the number one doesn’t mean I can slack of for anything like that. I can only control what’s on the field, the effort I give on the field.”
Golson, who is already looking thicker but hopes to jump from 185 to 195 by the start of the season, says he doesn’t want to get too heavy and inhibit his dual-threat abilities. In his inaugural season, Golson threw for 2,405 yards and scrambled for 298 (415 not counting the sacks).
His receivers already notice a difference between 2012 Everett Golson and 2013 Everett Golson. He has a vote of confidence from senior receiver TJ Jones, who nabbed a career-high 50 catches for 649 yards and four touchdowns with Golson last year.
“This year, we can put a little more on his plate as far as responsibility-wise, even play-wise, with the schemes we run,” Jones said of Golson. “It’s exciting to see the possibilities of where this offense can go because we have him back there. We’ve worked a lot together over the last year, a lot of things we got better on, a lot of things we still need to work on. We went through a lot of adversity together, so we know how to work through those hard times, we know how it feels to win and we know what it takes to get there.”
After struggling with consistency and health in the first half of the season, Golson was one of few bright spots in an otherwise disheartening loss to Alabama in the title game.
Golson completed 21-of-36 pass attempts for 270 yards, one touchdown and one interception in the national championship, something that receiver DaVaris Daniels said cemented the quarterback’s growth.
“I think it’s really important having that edge, that confidence in knowing what Ev is going to do,” Daniels said. “You know what you’re supposed to do and to expect the ball. We know what to expect from (our) leader. It makes it a lot easier. Ev definitely made a lot of progress from Game 1 to the end of the season. He become a leader everybody counted on him on being.
“There’s no ceiling on how good we can be. We’ve got playmakers on the outside. We’ve got a guy that can get us the ball, put us into good situations. That’s a deadly combination.”