When people look back at the 2012 season of the Fighting Irish- its easy to see that one area that propelled the team to the National Title game was the play of Everett Golson.
His abilities led to big wins in Norman and his all out dual threat play won the triple overtime game against Pittsburgh.
Even though he was backed up by Tommy Rees in the Michigan game and Stanford game, the Irish were a totally different team on the year with Everett on the run, or passing.
Something often overlooked when the topic of a dual threat quarterback comes up is the passing ability of these players. With Everett it was perhaps his strength.
Fast forward to 2013 and the Irish dreams were deeply pinned on Everett and what he provided the team in leadership and gamebreaking abilities. The dimension of the offense with Golson could change the complexion of defenses that had to face the Irish.
The schedule set up in their favor considering some of the more formidable teams they beat in 2012 were now home games. OU and USC had to come to South Bend, and it was certain the Irish would win these games looking back to the results of last year.
Michigan and Stanford remained challenges as road games but Everett and the Irish played their best football last year on the road - case in point in Norman and Los Angelas.
It seemed logical and almost certain victories would again find their way in favor of Notre Dame in 2013.
Instead, doubt has overwhelmed the Irish this season with Golson's dismissal from the team earlier in 2013 for academic violations.
The Irish stand at 5-2 but have had some struggles.
The lackluster play under Tommy Rees and his inablities to improvise and elude under pressure put Notre Dame in damage control mode. His first two series against the Sooners put the Irish in a 2-touchdown hole within 3 minutes. Even though a broken pass route and blocking failure complimented the turnovers - it was a task too great for Rees and the Irish to overcome.
His play thus far has been spotty at times. He has never struck fear into defenses as they continued to force Rees to beat them with his arm. Seemingly-the Irish walked the sidelines with fingers crossed with each snap.
And more troubling for the Irish was the depth chart at quarterback should Rees falter, or worse, sustain an injury heading into the year.
Andrew Hendrix was the 3rd-string quarterback last year behind Rees and Golson. Freshman Malik Zaire was penciled in for a redshirt, and deemed the possible 2nd-stringer behind Golson should he return for 2014.
Alot of dreaming and wishful thinking obviously.
After the win this past Saturday over the Trojans, the Irish are again behind the eight ball with the quarterback position.
Rees sustained a mild neck strain that may leave him off the field deep into this week. It will force coach Brian Kelly to play two players clearly off the radar coming into the season if Tommy can't go against Air Force.
Hendrix was dismal at best versus USC after Rees left the game. His first two passes fell way short of their intended targets and from that point forward the Trojans placed 10 men on the line knowing all to well passing was not an option.
Heavily sought after by Kelly - Hendrix came to South Bend packing a big arm and some elusiveness. What has remained a mystery to this point is why he has hit a wall with progression. Its placed the Irish in a big hole now. The departure of Gunner Keil and Golson's alledged one-year hiatus leaves the Irish with an injured Rees and a freshman yet to take a snap along with Hendrix.
Wonder if Everett has noticed the position the Irish are in after he led them to the promised land last year.
The next three games versus Air Force, Pittsburgh and Navy seem like games the Irish should win handedly.
And the obvious move that coach Brian Kelly should lean towards is the burning of Zaires redshirt. This is simple when looking to next year and moving forward this year.
And it all hinges on a player not even on the roster for the Irish this year.
The first question Kelly should ask is why bank on Golson next year?
Should he assume Golson will don his No. 5 jersey again, and remain the student he should have been in 2012? What if his academics keep him out in 2014? Would if gets injured and can't play?
These are important questions to sticky note to the game day big board going forward.
Rees is gone after this year and Hendrix will remain the player having logged the most time.
Kelly and the Irish have long lost the dream of playing for the title this year. And a BCS bowl is still way out of reach considering their rankings or lack thereof.
If Golson does return the offense will be built solely around his talents. And even if he doesn't, Zaire will fill those shoes in theory.
In order for that progression to succeed or resemble anything close to something sustainable it will be criticle for Zaire to play in game time scenerios and not just practice.
He has already been pegged in the minds of Kelly and his staff as the backup to Golson if he returns. It only stands to reason to consider the state they remain in thus far in 2013.
Kelly has already left the Irish in a position of doubt by the lack of developement with Hendrix and Zaire going into 2013. Had Keil remained in an Irish uniform, the Irish may be in a better position. And that could be the defense for Kelly thus far- along with his backups failing to progress themselves.
Whatever the opinion - it's clear this season and the remainder of it remains in the hands possibly of two unproven players.
The year can be salvaged should Rees' injury remain mild.
But this past weekend should serve notice to the Irish to prepare now for next year-with or without Everett Golson.
The possibilty of two dual threat quarterbacks in 2014 for the Irish is scary considering what Everett did in 2012.
Golson has been working out with proclaimed quarterback guru George Whitfield earlier this summer in San Diego. All signs suggest his mental capacity and grasping of the game will be vastly improved along with the enhancement of his already proven skills on the field.
Everett Golson on steroids if you will.
A lot can transpire between this Saturday in Colorado Springs and opening day in 2014 for the Irish.
But its very clear it must be the focal point going forward for Brian Kelly to prepare for either Everett's backup or his replacement in 2014.