NOTRE DAME, Ind. – At this time a year ago Everett Golson was doing his best Denard Robinson impersonation on the Notre Dame scout offense as the Irish prepared to play Michigan. Now some Wolverine scrub is playing Golson as Notre Dame and Michigan get set to meet tomorrow for the 40th time in their rivalry.
“We see a guy like that every day,” Michigan head coach Brady Hoke said of his team’s preparation to face Golson this week. “We do enough live stuff one-on one against each other that, hopefully, (there) will be some similarities there and that our guys are a little bit used to the speed. But you never know until you get in that environment.”
Other than the stereotype of what most people think Golson should be speed is the only other thing he and Robinson have in common. Robinson leads Michigan with 351 rushing yards, while Golson has minus-11 yards on the ground through three games.
Robinson has passed for 699 yards, but has completed less than 55-percent of his passes. Golson has completed 58-percent of his 81 attempts for 611 yards, but he has a much stronger arm than Robinson and has done what head coach Brian Kelly has asked by simply throwing the ball out of bounds to live for another play. The result is just one interception, compared to four by Robinson.
“I think his knowledge base and recognition is much better,” Kelly said of Golson’s continuing evolution as a quarterback. “I think fundamentally he continues to grow. All the things that I can say that measure the quarterback’s growth other than what happens on Saturday – we’re seeing that each and every week.”
While Golson continues to do good things he still has just three college games under his belt. Former Notre Dame assistant coach Greg Mattison is now Michigan’s defensive coordinator and he brought the heat against the Irish in the second half of last year’s Wolverine win. Expect more of the same on Saturday.
“Cleary we’re gonna get all kinds of looks from Michigan,” Kelly predicted this week. “They brought pressure 47 out of 82 snaps last year against Tommy Rees, so you can imagine they’ll probably be cranking-up their different looks for us.”
They might try to bring a lot of looks at the relatively inexperienced Golson, but Michigan’s defense is allowing 26.3 points a game this season. They are also allowing more than 211 yards a game on the ground. It is a very telling sign that safeties Jordan Kovacs and Thomas Gordon are the Wolverines’ top two tacklers with 23 and 22 tackles, respectively.
“I’ll always tell you we need to get more from our linebackers,” Hoke said this week when asked if he is concerned about the safeties leading the tackle totals. “But, when you play Air force, your safety has got to be guys who make a lot of tackles…but some of it’s by design, depending on what coverages you’re playing and then some of it, obviously, we like to see the second level guys and the guys up front get off blocks and make some plays.”
Linebackers Jake Ryan and Joe Bolden actually led Michigan with 11 and 10 respective tackles against Air Force, with Kovacs and Gordon behind them with nine and seven. Ryan is Michigan’s third-leading tackler with 20 in three games.