Preps Talk

After benching, Golson steers Notre Dame to victory

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After benching, Golson steers Notre Dame to victory

Everett Golson finally felt comfortable, and that was despite losing his starting role.

Before Notre Dame's 41-3 throttling of Miami at Soldier Field, the team announced Golson would be benched in favor of Tommy Rees. That's all anybody outside the Irish locker room knew, and it seemed reasonable to posit Golson had lost his starting role only a few days after coach Brian Kelly re-affirmed it in South Bend.

Instead, Rees took three snaps and gave way to Golson, who turned in arguably the best game of his young career, completing 17-of-22 passes for 186 yards while rushing six times for 51 yards.

"I feel little bit more confident," Golson said after the game. "It wasn't necessarily because of this game, just the whole week of preparation really made me feel a little bit more confident. It really showed throughout the game."

That week of preparation, though, involved Golson being dinged for violating a team rule -- thus, the benching to begin the game. Coach Brian Kelly said Golson's punishment stemmed from a meeting with a professor that ran long, and the quarterback didn't communicate that with the team and missed the start of a football obligation.

"But he took full responsibility for it, accountability for it," Kelly said. "I thought he came in and played very well. I was proud of him today."

It was only two weeks ago when Golson was at his worst, throwing two interceptions and looking lost before he was lifted in favor of Tommy Rees from Notre Dame's 13-6 win over Michigan. But with two weeks to re-assess, Golson looked like a completely different quarterback at Soldier Field.

"My main motive tonight was just to have fun, never try to -- I'm not going to make anything too serious, but I think I put a lot of pressure on myself during the Michigan game, so talking to coach Kelly and coach Martin, they really just wanted me to calm down and have fun out there," Golson said.

"I didn't really feel like I was having fun out there," he added about his performance against Michigan. "Just stuff off the field added a little bit of extra pressure or whatnot. But when I'm on that field, I gotta play within myself, I can't let other stuff affect my play."

Golson didn't force anything and didn't make any questionable reads on Saturday. He looked like the quarterback of a 5-0 team, one that's solidly in the AP top 10 and has legitimate BCS aspirations.

With questions mounting about whether a quarterback controversy was brewing in South Bend, the news before Saturday's game probably set off alarm bells at more than a few locations across Notre Dame nation. But Kelly's decision to insert Golson into the game after three plays wasn't about quieting that noise -- it was about Kelly expressing his faith in his freshman quarterback.

"It was important for me after disciplining him to get him back in the game right away, to let him know that I had trust in him, and that I believed in him," Kelly said. "I think that helped him to go in and be relaxed and feel like, hey, I've got the head coach's support here, even though I goofed up, he's going to put me right back in the game. And I think that really helped his confidence and then he backed it up with this play."

Perhaps aiding in Golson's success was the use of his legs. Entering Saturday, Golson had rushed 21 times for -11 yards, but thanks to implementing the zone read into Notre Dame's playbook, he rushed for 51 yards on six carries.

"I felt that it was good that we implemented that in our offense this week, because they never really had a chance to prepare for that because we haven't really shown it before," Golson said.

It took Notre Dame five games to implement the zone read, when the coaching staff finally had enough confidence in Golson to use it. And it's just another example of how Notre Dame's offense is still growing, and has plenty of room for improvement -- even after scoring 41 points.

"Today, we showed a glimpse of what we could be," Golson said. "And just to think about it, to me, is kinda scary. We got all the physical tools. It's just a matter of putting it together and playing as a unit."

91 Days to Kickoff: Joliet Catholic

91 Days to Kickoff: Joliet Catholic

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Joliet Catholic Academy

Head coach: Jake Jaworski

Assistant coaches: Dave Douglas, Cory McLaughlin, Chris Kinsella, Mark Mettille, Jake Ziesmer, Zach Dolph, Josh Greenback and Craig Slowik

How they fared in 2017: 3-6 (2-5 East Suburban Catholic Conference). JCA failed to make the 2017 IHSA state playoff field.

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 vs. St. Rita

Aug. 31 @ IC Catholic Prep

Sept. 7 @ St. Viator

Sept. 14 vs. Carmel

Sept. 21 @ Marist

Sept. 28 vs. Benet Academy

Oct. 5 vs. Marian Catholic

Oct. 12 @ Nazareth Academy

Oct. 19 @ Notre Dame

Biggest storyline: Can Joliet Catholic snap a two-year hiatus from the state football playoffs?

Names to watch this season: OT Dave Monnot and RB Kenyetta Williams

Biggest holes to fill: The Hilltoppers will need to reload at the quarterback and wide receiver positions. 

EDGY's Early Take: It's been a rough few seasons at one of the state's best football programs. That said, 2018 has the potential to be the turnaround year the Hilltoppers have been looking for. Second-year head coach Jake Jaworski will feature four big and experienced offensive linemen, led by senior OT Dave Monnot (6-foot-6, 287 pounds). They also have a name to watch in junior-to-be RB Kenyetta Williams. If Joliet Catholic can survive another challenging early season non-conference schedule, they will compete in the always-tough ESCC.

The Cubs are ahead of the game in MLB's brand new world

The Cubs are ahead of the game in MLB's brand new world

"BINGO!"

Joe Maddon couldn't contain his glee as he was told there is actual scientific evidence that proves the Launch Angle Revolution has not had any impact on the uptick in homers over the last couple seasons.

The reason MLB players were hitting the ball into the bleachers more than ever before in 2017 was because of the way baseballs are made now, reducing the wind resistence and causing balls to carry more.

But all these players changing their swing path to get more lift on the ball? Not a thing for the group as a whole (h/t MLB.com):


But in analyzing Statcast™ data from the measurement tool's 2015 inception through 2017, the committee found no evidence that batter behavior, en masse, has been a contributing factor toward the homer surge. In fact, exit velocities decreased slightly from 2016 to 2017, spray angles from the time studied were stable and a small increase in launch angles was attributable primarily to, as the study refers to them, "players with lesser home run talents."

Basically, the long-ball surge was global, affecting players from all spectrums of homer-hitting ability and irrespective of their approach.

"Going into this, I thought that was going to be the magic bullet, the smoking gun," Nathan said. "But it wasn't."


Hence the "BINGO!" cry from Maddon, who has been very vocal in the fight against the Launch Angle Revolution this season.

The end result is the study will eventually lead to baseballs being returned to normal levels and a more uniform way of storing the balls moving forward. Thus, homers figure to eventually return to normal levels, too, and everybody who was caught up in the Launch Angle Revolution may be left behind.

It's the changing landscape of baseball and we've already seen the after-effects this year: April was the first month in MLB history where there were more strikeouts than basehits.

Why? Because strikeouts are a natural byproduct of the Launch Angle Revolution as players are swinging up on the ball more and sacrificing contact for power and lift.

That, coupled with an increase in velocity and higher usage of relievers, has led to more strikeouts.

It makes perfect sense — it's tougher for a player to try to catch up to 98+ mph at the top of the strike zone with an uppercut swing.

"It's one of those things that sounds good, but it doesn't help you," Maddon said of launch angle. "There's certain things that people really want to promote and talk about, but it doesn't matter. When a hitter's in the box, when you're trying to stare down 96 or a slider on the edge, the last thing you're thinking about is launch angle.

"Now when it comes to practice, you could not necessarily work on angles — your body works a certain way. Like I've said before, there's guys that might've been oppressively bad or they just had groundballs by rolling over the ball all the time So of course you may want to alter that to get that smothering kind of a swing out of him.

"But if you're trying to catch up to velocity, if you're trying to lay back and I could keep going on and on. It sounds good."

The idea of hitting the ball hard in the air has been around for decades in baseball, pretty much ever since Babe Ruth on some level. It just wasn't able to be quantified or accessed by the public as easily until Statcast came around and made it all mainstream.

The Cubs, however, have been anti-launch-angle to a degree this season. They let go of hitting coach John Mallee (who liked players to hit the ball in the air and pull it) and replaced him with Chili Davis (who teaches the full-field, line-drive approach).

The effects haven't yet yielded results in terms of consistently plating runs or having a better performance in the situational hitting column, but the contact rate is, in fact, up.

Here is the list of Cubs hitters who currently boast a career best mark in strikeout rate:

Kris Bryant
Javy Baez
Willson Contreras
Addison Russell
Jason Heyward
Kyle Schwarber

Even Ben Zobrist is very close to his career mark and Anthony Rizzo is right at his career line.

Some of that jump in contact rate can be attributed to natural development and maturation of young hitters, but the Cubs are buying into the new way of doing things and it's paying off.

It's also probably the way the game is going to shift, with an emphasis on contact going to become more important the less balls are flying out of the yard.

The Cubs have seen firsthand how to beat the best pitching in the postseason and they know that cutting down on strikeouts and "moving the baseball" (as Maddon likes to put it) can help manufacture runs in low-scoring, tight affairs in October.

Now science is supporting those theories and Major League Baseball teams will have to adjust. 

The Cubs, however, are at least a step ahead of the game.

It's a long game — the offensive strides will take time to fully take effect even for the Cubs, who are at least a full offseason and two months ahead of the curve in terms of bucking the Launch Angle Revolution.

Maddon concedes that launch angle is a cool stat to see on the video board after homers, but other than that, he doesn't see much of a use for it, pointing to Kyle Schwarber's laser-line-drive homers having the same effect as Kris Bryant's moonshots.

However, Maddon does believe there's a place for launch angle and exit velocity in the game, though mostly for front offices trying to acquire players (think "Moneyball").

"As a teaching tool, you either come equipped with or without," Maddon said. "It's like you buy a new car, you either got this or you don't. Sometimes you can add some things occasionally, but for the most part, this is what you are.

"I like inside the ball, top half of the ball, inner half of the ball, stay long throughout the ball, utilize the whole field. I still think that's the tried and true approach and I'm not stuck in the mud on this by any means.

"The harder pitchers throw the baseball, the more laying back is going to be less effective."