CULVER, Ind. – Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson is feeling calmer, more confident, and just a bit more comfortable than he was in the spring, when he failed to reclaim the starting position he held before a season-long suspension.
Golson admitted to feeling a tinge of anxiety Monday as the Fighting Irish opened preseason camp at Culver Academies, a private high school about 40 miles south of South Bend. The senior from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina believes competition from sophomore Malik Zaire will better prepare him for the upcoming season.
"It kind of raises the stakes a little bit. So you can't come out and feel comfortable one day. You need to push and keep pushing. It's only going to let both of us get better," he said.
Golson took every snap with the first-team offense, and his passing was more precise than Zaire, who struggled at times with accuracy.
While sitting out last season after being suspended for academic impropriety, Golson spent 2 months in San Diego training with quarterbacks coach George Whitfield. After failing to win the starter's job in the spring, Golson made a return trip earlier this summer, where he worked out with Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty and Virginia quarterback David Watford.
"I just wanted to compete with them, see where I measure up," Golson said. "That's what I gained from that. Just a lot of confidence. Also just a little bit more honing in on my footwork again. It has helped me competitively."
Coach Brian Kelly said he will name a starter whenever either shows consistency and leadership. Kelly was asked last week whether Golson was the obvious choice to star, since he was quarterback when the Irish faced Alabama in the national title game 2 years ago.
"I would argue that Everett rode the bus to the championship," Kelly said.
Golson said he believes the remark was made more for the media than about him. Golson laughed when Kelly interrupted his session with the media.
"You get more reporters than I did," Kelly said.
Golson appears more at ease both on and off the field than in 2012. He said he wasn't sure how to act when he won the starter's job back then.
"I didn't really know what the coaches wanted from me. I was always thinking: 'What do these guys want?'" he said. "Now, I'm able to kind of just be out there and make plays. I've been with coach Kelly for 4 years now, so I know what he wants from this team. I know how he operates. So it's all about me just kind of being comfortable and doing my thing."
Kelly wants Golson to play with even more confidence.
"I think there was a time when he was a bit fearful at the quarterback position. I want to get him fearless," Kelly said. "If he gets to that level, it's going to be fun and exciting to watch him play."