"It's a work in progress," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said of his redshirt freshman quarterback. "An analogy I like to use is, he's still cooking. (But) we've taken him out of the oven."
Out of the oven and into the fire, Golson has received mixed reviews during Notre Dame's 4-0 start. He managed the game well against Navy, Purdue (despite being pulled in favor of veteran Tommy Rees for the game-winning two-minute drill) and Michigan State -- protecting the football and showing flashes of the athleticism that made him such a tantalizing fit for Kelly's offense. But he was miserable against Michigan, throwing two first-half interceptions before being benched in favor of Rees.
Kelly has been adamant that Golson is his starting quarterback. But he's obviously not shy about going to Rees if the situation warrants. That's up to Golson and how much he continues to progress.
"It's about him understanding what we want for him and then, clearly, him understanding what we need from him," Kelly said.
Kelly said Golson's confidence has not been affected by the quarterback rotation, and that the young QB understands that there will be growing pains.
"That's all part of the progression," Kelly said. "He's got a lot of pride. He's not a guy that I feel lacks confidence, but he's certainly quite away that there's a learning curve that has to continue to develop. When you're taking a highly skilled player that is a great competitor, they're never going to be deflated relative to confidence. They're going to gain more confidence as they understand what they're seeing. He's a guy that has confidence, but he'll continue to build on that as he continues to learn."
Golson hasn't been made available to the media since before the Purdue game, but Kelly said that's not to protect Golson. Kelly cited a busy workload, in both football and class, for Golson's conspicuous absence.
"We're not trying to hide him," Kelly said. "But I'm not going to make him available to you every day. He's got a lot going on being the quarterback as a freshman at Notre Dame."
That said, Kelly said he's in constant contact with Golson -- before and since the Michigan game -- and that those discussions are all part of the process.
"That's player development at its core," Kelly said. "If you're not having those conversations with him about those kinds of games, or (in) the lead-up to those games, you're not doing your job as a coach. If you just let him sit by himself, do something else. Eighteen- to 21-year-olds sometimes don't have answers to the questions you may ask or I may ask. But it's important you're communicating and working through any of those rough spots."
"I don't want to get too philosophical," Kelly added later, "but it's constant conversations on a year-to-year basis. In a year, we'll look back on it and say he came through this and he did OK."