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NCAA rules would permit Kiel to return, but texted “I’m a Bearcat” to The (Cincinnati) Enquirer.

Then came reports that standout defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes from Auburn, Calif., a five-star recruit who signed a letter of intent in February with Notre Dame, was having second thoughts about playing for the Irish.

Though none of those problems will affect the Irish this season like not having Golson.

Behind him is Tommy Rees, a senior with lots of experience but a history of inconsistent play; Tommy Hendrix, a senior with no career starts, and freshman Malik Zaire.

Defense spearheaded Notre Dame’s undefeated run last year and the Irish should be excellent on that side of the ball again in 2013. The Irish were counting on Golson’s improvement to give the offense a boost after it lost some key playmakers, such as Tyler Eifert, Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood.

Kelly was asked immediately after the loss to Alabama how optimistic he was about in the Irish passing game getting better in `13, since Golson and receiver DaVaris Daniels would be back and more experienced.

Kelly pretended to panic.

“Well, if Everett would come back for another year,” and then turned to Golson. “Are you coming back?”

“Yeah,” Golson replied. “I’m coming back.”

At least that was the plan.