Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2014

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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BY DAN MURPHY T he success of any college football season hinges on a few plays and, in a bigger picture, on a handful of players. Can Notre Dame's stars rise to the challenge and elevate the team around them? Will unexpected heroes emerge from the ranks of the underclassmen or overlooked veterans? Can role play- ers fill the gaps (literal and figurative) in the Irish front seven? This list is a look at the 10 players on Notre Dame's roster that hold the power to swing a pivotal fifth year for head coach Brian Kelly in one direc- tion or the other based on their indi- vidual play. It's not a list of the 10 most athletic or talented men on the roster, although several of them would make that countdown as well. Four months from now, when it comes time for the 2014 season post-mortem, we believe many of the questions of why the Irish fared the way they did (for better or worse) will likely be answered by parsing the performances of the mem- bers of this group. 1. QB EVERETT GOLSON The short-lived quarterback compe- tition in Notre Dame's fall camp was never much of a mystery. If the Irish are going to return to championship contention again in 2014, it is going to be with the same quarterback that helped get them there in 2012. Kelly put any doubts to rest when he offi- cially named Golson the team's starter after the first week of practice. The coach hasn't shied away from saying he didn't have the quarterback to run his offense in the past year, nor has he been reluctant to say Golson is that guy. "It's always been about the quarter- back," Kelly said this summer. "The first quarterback that I recruited was Everett, and we force-fed him into the offense and then he got suspended. We were hoping that we would be a year ahead of things." Notre Dame plans to place a much heavier burden on its offense to win games this season, and Golson will shoulder much of that weight. It's not a load he was prepared to carry two seasons ago as a first-year starter. He averaged one touchdown pass per ap- pearance that season, a number that won't cut it in 2014. Golson's ability to extend plays pro- vides a stark contrast to last year 's starter, Tommy Rees. But the last time Pivotal PIECES Our picks for the 10 Irish players that wield the most influence on the outcome of the 2014 season

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