SOUTH BEND — Everett Golson's first season at Notre Dame was spent running the Irish's scout team. It was a good learning experience and a chance to mature in the whirlwind of a big-time football program. He acknowledges it was also a bit humbling.
"It's time to get back to what I know I can do," Golson said Wednesday.
What he knows how to do is move the football, either with his legs as a breakaway runner or with a strong arm that saw him throw for more than 11,000 yards and 151 TDs as a prep star in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Now he's in the running to be the Irish's starter and has emerged from a four-quarterback derby as a front runner, along with Andrew Hendrix.
Coach Brian Kelly said the two QBs are getting an even amount of reps in practice, even though Golson got more work with the first team Wednesday when reporters were allowed to watch the entire workout.
"It's 1-A, 1-B. Both have made great progress," Kelly said.
The competition took on a new twist when Tommy Rees, who is 12-4 as a starter the last two seasons, was arrested following a scuffle with police as he fled an off-campus party in May.
Rees was suspended for the Irish's Sept. 1 season opener against Navy in Dublin, Ireland, and although in uniform did very little in practice Wednesday in terms of participating in the drills. Gunner Kiel, a freshman and a top recruit, is No. 3 right now.
Golson, Hendrix and Kiel all made a point Wednesday of saying how helpful Rees has been in helping them learn the intricacies and formations in Kelly's spread offense.
"We'll be talking in the room and he's like, you know, if you need anything, I'm here for you," said Golson, who is Rees' roommate during camp.
"That's how it is with this whole unit, not only just with Tommy. ... Even though this is a competition, we also help each other out."
When Golson had trouble getting a play in from the sideline during Wednesday's scrimmage, no could have helped him there because Kelly could be heard from one side of the field to the other loudly registering his displeasure.
"You kidding me?" the coach yelled. "Get over here."
Golson, now a sophomore who didn't get into any real games a year ago, also had a screen pass intercepted during an 11-on-11 matchup with the first-team defense when veteran defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore read the play, reached up and picked it off.
Golson is still figuring out the college game, how to balance his instinct to take off with an ability to stay in the pocket, and how to command an offense that can be complex.
But he's made strides after an impressive spring game.
"He (Golson) can throw it a country mile and he's starting to understand defenses more," said Hendrix, a junior who appeared in five game last season as change-of-pace quarterback and broke off a 78-yard run against Air Force.
Kelly's emphasis this season is on eliminating mistakes from the quarterback position where Rees threw 14 interceptions last season and Hendrix added two more.
Hendrix said he's also a much better player now than he was in the spring and isn't worried about the competition, saying it'll be up to Kelly to make the best decision for the team.
"As long as I focus on what I can do being the best me that I possibly can. At the end of the day, if that's not enough, that's not enough," he said.
Kelly, who was known to use more than one quarterback during his days coaching Cincinnati, even entertained a question that it could happen again.
"We'll know if we get to game time that both of them have to play," Kelly said. "Obviously they both have the ability to be starters. I can't say I wouldn't be comfortable. I'd prefer one quarterback, but at least I got some experience in balancing two, if we would ever have to do that."
Kiel got one of those welcome to college football moments late in the scrimmage when linebacker Connor Little clobbered him as he was attempting to pass.
"It feels good, I haven't been hit for a while," Kiel said. "Get right back up and move on to the next play."
Notes: OT Jordan Prestwood, who sat out last season after transferring from Florida State, is no longer with the team, Kelly said, adding that because of privacy laws he could not discuss the reasons. ... RB Cam Roberson, who hurt his knee during spring practice in 2011, will pursue a medical hardship because he's not able to perform at the level he felt was necessary, Kelly said. .... TE Alex Welch had to be helped off the field during the scrimmage with an apparent leg injury.