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Everett Golson to Florida? Cases for, against Gators snagging Notre Dame transfer

The former Notre Dame quarterback is talented, and Florida could really use talent (and depth) at the position. But would he be a Band-Aid on a bigger problem, or worth the battle to have him admitted?

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Former Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson is headed somewhere else, and that place might well be Florida: He visited the campus on Tuesday, and met with coaches, according to multiple reports.

But is he a good fit for the Gators? There are good cases for and against his transfer.

Cases For

Golson could assuredly be Florida's starter

The popular perception of late is that Golson didn't exactly light the world on fire either in his stellar freshman campaign in 2012 or his return to the Irish in 2014. His completion percentage bumped up slightly (from 58.8 percent to 60.0 percent) after he missed the 2013 season, and his yards per attempt followed a similar path (7.5 to 8.1). He did throw 29 touchdowns in 2014, but they came with 14 interceptions — and Golson did most of his damage in September, when he completed nearly 70 percent of his passes and threw 11 TDs against two picks.

In October 2014, when Notre Dame played Stanford and Florida State's stout defenses around a shootout with North Carolina, Golson completed less than 55 percent of his passes, and averaged just 6.4 yards per attempt.

For his career, Golson's numbers against ranked teams and BCS-league teams are much worse than those against unranked and non-BCS squads. And he's 27-for-47 for 360 yards, one touchdown, and one pick in two games against SEC teams, which is in line with his performance against Florida State (31-for-52, 313 yards, three TDs, two INTs) in 2014.

But that's much better than what Florida's gotten from its QBs for years.

Gators quarterbacks completed exactly half — 97 of 194 — of their passes against SEC teams in 2014, averaging 5.7 yards per attempt and throwing seven touchdowns against 11 interceptions. And Florida passers were abysmal against ranked teams last season, completing 40 of 97 passes against such foes, tossing just three touchdowns and seven picks, and averaging an absurdly poor 4.5 yards per attempt — worse than the nation's worst figure in yards per attempt for the year, the 4.7 yards per attempt woeful SMU put up. (2012 is the only season in the last five years in which Florida QBs posted a collective passer rating above 120.00 against SEC opponents.)

It's a bit unfair to conclude that Golson would indisputably be an upgrade over Will Grier, who wasn't part of any of those statistics, but his production is quite clearly an upgrade over what Treon Harris gave Florida. And given that Grier and Harris haven't seemed dramatically different in practices to this point, it's probably not wrong to suggest Golson would be better than Grier in 2014.

Golson can be the sacrificial lamb

No matter who plays quarterback behind Florida's so-green-it-is-verdant offensive line, that guy will be running for his life. The logic of "bad line requires mobile quarterback" is part of what led Florida to make Jeff Driskel its starter in 2012 — and that gambit did work out that year, for the most part — but it also seemingly stunted Driskel's growth as a passer.

Avoiding that risk for Grier and/or Harris by bringing in Golson would be valuable, and, if nothing else, Golson would give Florida three healthy bodies at QB; with the Skyler Mornhinweg Disaster Plan no longer available, there is value in simple numbers.

Golson would make Florida better in 2015

I don't think Florida's likely to be more than a seven-win team in 2015, unless its offensive line congeals with extraordinary speed. But having a mature and more mobile quarterback, even as a one-year rental, gives Florida a chance to look more competitive or steal games in the fall.

The merits of bringing in a transfer for that purpose are debatable — and more on that in a moment — but the Florida fan base could sure use a fun fall for a change, and fans wouldn't care that much about a mercenary doing the winning.

Florida could sell Golson's success

While I don't think Florida's current coaching staff is exactly lacking for selling points for quarterback recruits, making Golson into an efficient, effective passer in the course of seven months would be a total win for Jim McElwain and Doug Nussmeier. The Gators would suddenly have a coaching team that made a decent quarterback coached by a renowned QB guru much better — and did so with alacrity, which would stand in stark contrast to the difficulty of a system like Florida State's notoriously complex one.

Want to sell a top-flight passer on being able to come in and start very early in a career? McElwain and Nussmeier showing their work with Golson would help.

Cases Against

Golson isn't that much of an upgrade...

If Golson were a surefire Heisman candidate, Florida taking him would be a no-brainer. He's not: His abilities as a passer and runner are substantial, but he's also turnover-prone and has fits of inaccuracy. Golson is transferring, lest we forget, rather than staying in South Bend, where he would be competing for (and likely eventually losing) the starting job at Notre Dame with Malik Zaire.

...and it would be mortgaging some of Florida's future

And so we can have concerns about the long-term effect of a hypothetical transfer.

If everything goes better than expected — Golson leads Florida to nine wins, McElwain is hailed as a genius, and some big-time recruit inks with the Gators as a result — it still leaves Florida in a precarious position in 2016 and beyond.

Presuming that Golson transferring would just forestall the Grier vs. Harris derby down the road a year — a significant if — means that Florida would just be in the same quandary of starting the very green Grier or the slightly less green Harris next fall. And Grier used his redshirt year last fall (though it could get assessed as a medical redshirt, given his back problems), making him the most logical backup if Florida is trying to save Harris's eligibility.

But Harris redshirting behind Golson and Grier a season after starting as a true freshman would be odd, and I certainly wouldn't blame him for wanting to transfer in that scenario.

Because of that, I really think there's no true savings of eligibility to be had for Florida's backups with Golson, and so I have to think about benefits largely in the context of the 2015 season alone.

While it's fair to wonder if Grier and Harris would end up gun-shy or permanently damaged after a season behind Florida's line in 2015, it's also fair to wonder whether keeping both protected by bringing in a transfer would hamper their developments in its own way. I think both current Florida QBs — Grier, especially — could really use seasoning that they will only get from live game action, and depriving them of that in 2015 in pursuit of a couple wins that would turn a mediocre season into a good one might be deleterious to Florida's program down the road.

Also: Golson lost a year for cheating

Golson spent the 2013 season away from Notre Dame because of academic dishonesty. And in Golson's first public comments on what exactly got him suspended, he basically did everything but fully own up to it.

"It wasn't due to poor grades or anything like that," he told Sports Illustrated in a video posted Tuesday by the magazine. Asked directly if he cheated on a test, Golson said: "Yeeeeeeeaaaahhh, something like that."

"Like I said, I'm just going to leave it at poor judgment," he told the magazine. Asked again if it was cheating on a test, Golson responded: "Test situation."

And, look, I'm not nearly naïve enough to think that Golson didn't get caught doing something many, many, many other college students do on a regular basis, at Notre Dame and at Florida and at schools all over the world — but something about not just copping to cheating on a test in that interview has never sat right with me. Golson was given a golden opportunity to address the how and why of his poor judgment, and instead chose to simply park the bus on the what.

If Golson transfers to Florida, he will be expected to start — and fans, myself included, will have to reconcile the University of Florida giving a graduate student who spent a year in the wilderness for well-documented cheating a chance to be one of the faces of the school because he can win games for the Gators.

And I don't have to like that. Neither do you.

The cheating further complicates Golson's eligibility

Florida, and any other SEC school pursuing Golson, would have to sweat out Golson receiving a graduate student transfer exemption from the conference.

Squint, and you will see that section (d) of that bylaw requires the transferring player to "(have) not been subject to official university or athletics department disciplinary action at any time during enrollment" at his previous stop. It's somewhat unclear whether Golson technically dodged disciplinary action by withdrawing — a scheme of choice for students accused of cheating — or withdrew because of disciplinary action, with reporting casting Golson's action as proactive with phrasing like "withdrew from the school as a result of an academic honor code violation."

But Golson wrote in a letter released by Notre Dame in May 2013 that he was, in fact, suspended:

"I have been informed by the University of Notre Dame that due to my poor academic judgment that I have been suspended from the University for the 2013 Fall Term."

I seriously doubt any folks with the SEC in charge of granting exemptions to graduate transfers will see Golson's sabbatical as anything other than a consequence of a disciplinary action — and Golson picking one SEC school over others would no doubt raise a hue and cry from other member schools.

Florida hasn't picked battles on graduate transfers when it comes to football; former Utah cornerback Ryan Smith, under Urban Meyer in 2006, and former Virginia tight end Jake McGee, under Will Muschamp in 2014, are the Gators' most notable graduate transfers, and neither was met with any negative reaction at the time of their transfer. (Smith's marvelous year at Florida, in which he had eight interceptions and was named to the All-SEC first team, did, however, prompt discussion the rule.)

I doubt Florida's higher-ups desperately want to make Golson their first cause célèbre.