NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Like so many members of the Notre Dame football team, Everett Golson has turned the page on the 2012 season. It was a season that saw the redshirt freshman quarterback run the offense for the majority of the team's 12-0 run through the regular season - an improbable accomplishment for the strong-armed QB who was running the scout team offense in 2011.
Everyone - from head coach Brian Kelly to offensive coordinator Chuck Martin to Golson and throughout the program - agrees that 2012 was a great experience, but with the 2013 spring practice slate now less than a week from culminating, 2012 is also now ancient history.
"This team is not the 2012 Notre Dame football team," Golson said in his latest chat with the media inside the Guglielmino Athletics Complex. "This is a whole (new) year. It's a whole (different) group of guys, so leaders are going to have to step up and lead this team."
Golson has a completely different level of confidence this spring compared to a year ago when he was vying with Andrew Hendrix and early enrollee Gunner Kiel to try to impress Kelly and Martin to possibly take the reins of the Irish offense.
Golson wound up throwing a pair of touchdown passes and completing 11 total passes for 120 yards in last spring's Blue-Gold game. The Myrtle Beach, SC product says this spring is leaps and bounds different compared to last year.
"I just think I'm so much ahead of where I was," Golson said. "That's due to me having such great coaches like coach Martin and coach Kelly. They're just helping me grinding in the film room (and) even on the field. (Such as with) coach Kelly with the minor details of the mechanics and things like that. I feel pretty good where I'm at."
"I don't know that you can even put him in the same category from where he started last year to where he is now," Kelly said of the progress Golson has made in the last calendar year. "I think where we're at with him more than anything else is that we have to now begin to pull back a bit. He wants to do too much."
Golson may want to do too much now, because he has already done so much in a short amount of time. After his strong spring last year his play got even stronger over the summer and through fall camp. Golson went on to start 11 of Notre Dame's 13 games last season, including the BCS Championship Game. He passed for 2,405 yards with 12 touchdowns and a modest six interceptions. He did it all while learning on the go.
"The game was definitely faster," Golson said of his feel for the game in 2012. "I think when you're a little inexperienced the game is faster. You almost kind of over think it instead of just knowing it and reacting. I think that's where the biggest progression was for me. That's where I am now is just seeing and reacting."
"We're at a totally different point in his development," Kelly said of Golson after Saturday's practice. "I think the thing that stands our most to me is his command of the offense, communication and his leadership."
Leadership is a natural area of progression for Golson and may be even more important than his X and O development in 2013. The Irish lose captain Tyler Eifert as well as veterans like Theo Riddick and Braxton Cave on the offensive side of the ball and it only makes sense that a more seasoned quarterback will now take on more leadership responsibility.
"It came with the relationships that we have (and that we) built in the season that we had this past year," Golson said of the "tremendous" strides he believes he has made as a leader. "It was a good season for us, but what it did for me was help me to build relationships with guys like the O-Line (and) the wide receivers and just create more of a bond together."
Kelly never forced Golson into a leadership role and Golson never forced himself into it. That intangible growth has taken its own natural time.
"I don't necessarily say I have to," Golson said of being more of a leader this spring. "I'll say I'm more willing to. Being that I'm the quarterback of such prestigious university and for such a great team (with) so many great teammates, I wanna be in that leadership role."
Along with being more of a leader, Golson also has more personal accountability. Growing up in front of the camera and on the sidelines when things go awry is not always easy or flattering. Golson was spotted more than once seemingly sulking on the sidelines when Kelly replaced him with veteran Tommy Rees during games last year, but Golson has more personal onus now.
"One thing I've progressed in is realizing when I do wrong," Golson said. "I think before, when we were just moving into the offense maybe I wasn't understanding that. It took some time to kind of explain it to me, but now even in practice today, I could have made a better read and I just immediately came to the sideline and said 'Ok, I could have (gone) here with him'. It just makes communication between me and coach Martin and also coach Kelly much better."
Golson's growth in the offense and growth as a leader and overall maturity, not to mention last year's results, have the bar set high for 2013. The Irish defense set the tone for the Fighting Irish last year, but Golson expects more from himself and his offense next season.
"It's more on us just because I expect more of us," Golson said of his new expectations. "Last year, 2012, we didn't really (make) our mark. You can kind of blame it on excuses (like) it was our first year going through it, but at the end of the day we didn't do our job. That's definitely an emphasis for me personally to make this offense better and have a better season."
The junior to be still has three seasons of playing eligibility remaining and job security would not seem to be an issue. Kiel has transferred to Cincinnati, Hendrix made just cameo appearances last year and Rees is the solid No. 2 QB behind Golson in case of emergency. While Golson may not need to look over his shoulder next fall, he says he has to keep an urgency to his daily focus to stay sharp.
"The number one is only good for so much," Golson said. "(If) you go out there and throw a couple picks - who knows. Maybe it's another controversy again. Your job is back up (for grabs). My thing was I never wanted to get complacent - just always stay hungry and stay driven. That's how it's kind of (gone) through this whole process."
The page is turned on 2012.