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Little things adding up for Notre Dame's Golson

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Little things adding up for Notre Dame's Golson

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly believes Everett Golson is ready for what awaits him at Southern California.

He believes the 6-0, 185-pound sophomore quarterback who did not play as a freshman is ready. Ready for the pressure of leading the Fighting Irish (11-0) on the field ranked No. 1 for the first time in 19 years. Ready for a rivalry game that has been dominated over the past decade by USC (7-4). Ready to help Notre Dame advance to the BCS title game with a win.

Kelly said he bases that opinion by the maturity Golson has shown as he's improved throughout the season, playing in tough venues such as Michigan State and Oklahoma and rallying the Irish from a two-touchdown deficit in the fourth quarter against Pittsburgh to a triple-overtime victory.

``All of those things go into Saturday and all of those will be positives for him going into the USC game,'' Kelly said.

Golson said he is feeling more comfortable because of all he's learned and he has learned to manage the clock better so he doesn't have to rush each play.

``I think I've progressed a lot,'' he said.

Golson keeps doing a lot more of the little things right and it's leading to more big plays for the Irish. He waited until the last second to pitch the ball to set up Cierre Wood's 68-yard touchdown run on the fourth play against Wake Forest. He had TD passes of 50 and 34 yards against Wake Forest, and the second came after a nice pump fake.

Slowly, Golson has turned what had been an at-best average offense into one that opponents are increasingly having trouble slowing down.

``He's a guy that makes explosive plays,'' Kelly said. ``He's got the ability to throw it. He can run the football. He's elusive. I think we're seeing a guy that's growing each and every week.''

Through Notre Dame's first five games, Golson was 67-of-111 passing for 827 yards with three touchdown passes and three interceptions, with a pass efficiency rating of 126.46. He also had run for 40 yards on 27 carries.

In the last five games, after sitting out against BYU with a concussion, Golson is 84-of-145 passing for 1,091 yards with eight touchdowns and two interceptions, a pass efficiency rating completion rate of 136.58. He's also run for 202 yards on 53 carries - and that includes just one carry in the win over Wake Forest.

The Irish have improved during that span from 71st in the nation in total offense, averaging 398.4 yards a game, to 50th, averaging 419.7.

``He's definitely on the right path to providing us the offense that we need,'' Kelly said.

The coach admitted he hasn't run Golson as much as he'd like because he still needs to get stronger.

``He still needs another coat of armor on him. He needs another year in the weight room and he needs to get thicker. We want to be judicious when we run him,'' Kelly said. ``We've got to run him. He's better when he runs, physically and mentally. He loves to run.''

Golson is the fourth quarterback in Notre Dame history to start his career with nine straight victories. He would have 10 straight if he hadn't been benched the first three plays against Miami. The school record is 11 wins by Bob Williams during the national championship season of 1949.

Last week, the focus was working on footwork and communicating with teammates, calling plays and then checking into different plays. Kelly had Golson watching film of Peyton Manning and other quarterbacks.

``Manning is probably one of the great communicators, his ability to get into plays and check and do it efficiently,'' Kelly said. ``We try to use some of the greats to show some things that could be helpful.''

As for the pressure of playing at USC with Notre Dame eager to win its first national championship since 1988, Golson said he's taking the same attitude he's taken all year of focusing on the opponent and not worrying about the big picture.

``As far as I'm concerned, my head is down, my foot's on the gas, I'm never going to look up and lose focus,'' he said. ``My thing is just keep your head down and keep pushing it.''

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MacLellan: Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz

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MacLellan: Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz

Will Todd Reirden replace Barry Trotz as head coach of the Washington Capitals?

Based on what GM Brian MacLellan said Monday, it certainly sounds like it’s Reirden’s job to lose.

“We’re going to start with Todd here,” MacLellan said. “I think we’ve been grooming him to be a head coach, whether for us or someone else.”

“We’ll see how the talk goes with him and we’ll make a decision based on that,” MacLellan added. “If it goes well, we’ll pursue Todd. And if it doesn’t, we’ll open it up a little bit.”

MacLellan said he isn’t sure exactly when the interview with Reirden will take place. The front office needs a few days to regroup. It’s also a busy stretch in hockey’s offseason. In the coming two weeks, MacLellan will direct the NHL draft in Dallas, monitor development camp in Arlington and then call the shots when free agency begins on July 1.  

“We need to take a breather here but I think Todd is a good candidate for it,” MacLellan said. “I’d like to sit down with Todd and have a normal interview, head coaching interview. I think most of our discussions are just casual. It’s about hockey in general. But I’d like to do a formal interview with him and just see if there’s differences or how we’re seeing things the same and if he’s a possibility for the head coach.”

Reirden, 46, spent the past four seasons on Trotz’s bench. He was elevated to associate coach prior to the 2016-17 season after coming up just short in his pursuit of the head coaching position in Calgary.

Reirden’s primary responsibility on Trotz’s staff was overseeing the defense and Washington’s perennially potent power play.

Prior to joining the Capitals in 2014, he was an assistant coach for four seasons with the Penguins. And before that, he spent a couple of seasons as the head coach of AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Penguins’ top minor league affiliate.

A native of Deerfield, Ill., Reirden also had a lengthy professional career that included 183 NHL games with the Oilers, Blues, Thrashers and Coyotes.

Asked what he’s looking for in the Caps’ next head coach, MacLellan said he’s looking for a forward-thinker, a strong communicator and a players’ coach.

Reirden is all of those things.

“Someone that's up to date on the modern game,” MacLellan said. “Someone that's progressive, looking to try different things. Someone that has a good relationship with players. They communicate, can teach, make players better. It's becoming a developmental league where guys are coming in not fully developed products and we need a guy that can bring young players along because more and more we're going to use young players as the higher end guys make more money.”

One of the side benefits of elevating Reirden is the fact he already has a strong relationship with many of the current players, meaning there won’t be much upheaval as the Caps look to defend their championship.

“It could be a natural transition,” MacLellan said. “But once we sit down and talk face to face about all the little small details in the team, I'll have a better feel for it.”

MacLellan said a decision on the other assistant coaches—Lane Lambert, Blaine Forsythe, Scott Murray, Brett Leonhardt and Tim Ohashi—will be made after the next head coach is named.

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Brian MacLellan explains the reasoning behind not extending Trotz before the 2017-18 season

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Brian MacLellan explains the reasoning behind not extending Trotz before the 2017-18 season

As shocking as the news of Barry Trotz’s resignation on Monday felt, it probably shouldn’t have given that whether or not he would return to Washington after the 2017-18 season was a storyline all year long.

Trotz entered the 2017-18 season on the last year of his initial four-year deal leading to speculation over whether the team was dissatisfied with his results and ready to move on from the head coach when his contract expired. Teams typically do not allow a head coach to enter the final year of a contract so that they do not appear to the players to be a lame duck coach.

Ultimately, that turned out to not be a problem as Trotz led the organization to its first Stanley Cup in his contract year. While there was interest from both sides in an extension in the wake of winning the Cup, ultimately a new deal could not be agreed upon and now the defending champs are without a head coach.

This begs the question, could things have been different had the team worked out a new contract with Trotz before the 2017-18 season? The answer is almost certainly yes, so how did things get to the point where Trotz was allowed to go into 2017-18 without an extension?

During a press conference with the media on Monday, general manager Brian MacLellan explained the team’s reasoning in not extending Trotz in the summer of 2017.

“We were struggling at the time to get over the hump,” MacLellan said. “We couldn't get over the second round and Barry hadn't been able to coach out of the second round yet either.”

In 15 seasons with the Nashville Predators, Trotz was not able to coach his team past the second round in the playoffs. In his three seasons with Washington leading up to the 2017-18 campaign, he had led the Caps to two division titles and two Presidents’ Trophies, but again could not get past the second-round hump that had plagued both him and the team.

Based on MacLellan’s comments, another early playoff exit would have likely led to the team choosing to allow Trotz's contract to expire.

“I think from the organization's perspective, some changes would've had to be made if we lost in the second round again,” MacLellan said.

But what if instead the unthinkable happened? What if the Caps forced Trotz into a “prove it” contract year and he was able to lead the team to the Stanley Cup? Didn’t they risk losing him all along?

Yes and no.

MacLellan confirmed reports on Monday that Trotz’s contract included an automatic two-year extension “at an increased rate” if he won the Cup. So while both sides were negotiating an extension, technically Trotz was already under contract through the 2019-20 season.

In the summer of 2017, MacLellan had a choice to make. At the end of the two-year championship window, he could choose to extend a head coach who had not brought the team the type of postseason success he was hoping for, he could fire a coach who had just won two consecutive division titles, two Presidents’ Trophies and whose team was eliminated in the playoffs by the eventual Stanley Cup champions, or he could ride out the final year of Trotz’s deal and, in the off chance the team won the Stanley Cup, still rest easy in the notion that Trotz would automatically remain under contract.

MacLellan went with option C. It almost worked.

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