Speculation on who will be starting under center when the Temple Owls visit South Bend on August 31 can come to end. On Wednesday Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly told reports that senior Tommy Rees does not have to compete for the starting quarterback position for the 2013 Fighting Irish during a charity golf tournament.
Last week Brian Kelly made some headlines when quotes surfaced indicating that Tommy Rees would be Notre Dame’s starting quarterback for 2013. Additional reports surfaced quickly after, however, stating that Rees had not yet been named the starter for the Irish. Kelly was very clear with reporters on Wednesday though – Tommy Rees is his guy at quarterback.
“My initial comments I think were specifically dealing with the present situation. Hadn’t gotten a chance to think about Everett not being our starter. As I got a chance to think about it, Tommy does not have to fight to be the number 1 quarterback.”
Wednesday’s revelation should not be shocking to anyone. Brian Kelly has shown time and time again over the last three seasons that he has faith in Tommy Rees despite being seen giving him tongue lashings that Bobby Knight would be jealous of on the Notre Dame sidelines from time to time.
Kelly has also shown that he is reluctant to use senior Andrew Hendrix for more than a running threat at quarterback as well leaving his only other option for a starting quarterback true freshman Malik Zaire who while very talented is still a true freshman.
Rees has played against big time opponents and has been in pressure packed situations as recently as last season. It doesn’t get much more pressure packed than coming into a game cold off the bench trailing a top 20 team in the final minutes of the fourth quarter and being asked to rally an offense that hadn’t scored much on the day. That’s what Rees did against Stanford last season though when Everett Golson was knocked out of the game.
I can go on and on about why Rees is qualified to lead the Irish in 2013 and in fact, I did just that in a piece we posted on Monday.
The door is still cracked for Andrew Hendrix
While Kelly was definitive in his naming of Rees as the starter in 2013, he did not close the door on either Hendrix or Zaire seeing the field this fall.
“We think that Andrew can compete and help our offense and we think Malik is going to continue to grow,” Kelly told reporters.
Kelly has used Hendrix in spots as a running threat and Hendrix has shown that he has the ability to pick up some yards on the ground. Given the lack of experience and presence of a big back to pick up tough yards on the 2013 roster, it would be surprising actually if Kelly did not find a similar role for Hendrix this season as well.
Malik Zaire’s role for 2013 still uncertain
The real question mark is how Kelly will plan to use Zaire. Will he ride Hendrix as his backup and try to preserve a year of eligibility for Zaire so that if Everett Golson does return in January with two years of eligibility left Zaire would still maintain four?
The health of Rees could likely impact the answer to that question. If Rees stays relatively healthy and doesn’t miss any extended time, Kelly and Notre Dame could conceivably get by without having to call on Zaire. Should Rees get hurt and have to miss a game or two, however, Kelly will have a tough decision to make.
For now though, the one decision Brian Kelly has made is that Tommy Rees is his starting quarterback and the Irish will enter fall camp with Rees at the helm of the Notre Dame offense. If Brian Kelly has taught us anything about his stance on quarterbacks in three seasons in South Bend, however, it’s that whoever is his quarterback one week, or even one quarter, isn’t necessarily going to be his quarterback the next.