After a brief hiatus, our countdown of the top 25 football players on the Notre Dame roster for 2013 continues today with one of the most polarizing and scrutinized quarterbacks to ever have a winning percentage of over 75% for Notre Dame – senior Tommy Rees.
Tommy Rees has a better winning percentage better than Brady Quinn and Jimmy Clausen and is just a percentage away from having the same winning percentage as Rick Mirer. You would never know it though by the criticism lumped on him on forums and most likely even in the comments of this article before all is said and done.
Originally a lightly recruited 3-star quarterback in the last class Charlie Weis started putting together before getting fired, Rees came to Notre Dame with low expectations. As the son of a football coach though, he used his smarts to work his way up the depth chart and found himself thrust into a starting role at the ripe old age of 18 when Dayne Crist was lost for the season against Tulsa in 2010. All Rees did afterwards was post a 4-0 record as a starter including upsets of Utah and USC while leading Notre Dame to a Sun Bowl victory over Miami.
Since then Rees’s career has been a rollercoaster. He lost the 2011 Notre Dame quarterback derby to Dayne Crist, but ended up being called in relief of Crist against South Florida and starting each of the remaining 12 games of the season despite being pulled in favor of Crist against USC and Andrew Hendrix against Stanford.
Last year Rees again lost the yearly quarterback derby that has almost become a staple of the Brian Kelly Era only to come in off the bench against Purdue, Michigan, and Stanford to rally the Irish in place of an injured Everett Golson in the case of Purdue and Stanford and an ineffective Golson against Michigan. Along the way he started and finished Notre Dame’s win over BYU and made cameos against USC and Oklahoma.
Rees was all set for a backup role again in 2013 before Everett Golson’s “poor academic judgement” cost Golson his junior season. Now Rees finds himself once again manning the most prominent position in all of college football.
Why Tommy Rees could be ranked higher
For all of the knocks on Tommy Rees, it is hard to argue with his win-loss record of 13-4 as a collegiate starting quarterback. Rees lacks flash, but at the end of the day, he has gotten the job done for Notre Dame a number of times over the last three years whether or not most fans want to give him credit for it.
One of Rees’s biggest limitations – his mobility – will at least be partially compensated for with what could be a dominate offensive line led by Zack Martin and Chris Watt. Notre Dame will have two first time starters on the line but as an overall group, this year’s line has the potential to be the best of the Kelly Era. That strength up front should allow for clean passing lanes and plenty of time for Rees to find an open receiver.
Rees will also have a very deep and talented if albeit inexperienced supporting cast of skill players on offense. Notre Dame hasn’t had a wide receiver corps as deep as the one Rees will be throwing to this year of TJ Jones, DaVaris Daniels, Chris Brown, CJ Prosise, and the talented freshmen such as Corey Robinson along with Troy Niklas at tight end. Add in a mix of backs that can catch the ball with George Atksinon, Amir Carlisle, Greg Bryant, Tarean Folston, and Cam McDaniel and Rees will have no shortage of weapons to get the ball to this year.
Why Tommy Rees could be ranked lower
For all of Rees’s strengths and for all of the weapons he has in place to throw to and to give him pass protection, nothing in the world is going to be able to give him a big, down the field arm. We’ve seen some nicer velocity on his short and intermediate throws in practice thus far, but you can’t develop the arm strength to throw the ball on a line 50+ yards down field. That limitation has been what has allowed defenses to drop eight into coverage for the last few years when they’ve had time to prepare for Rees and force him to fit the ball in tight windows at times which leads us to the second reason Rees could be ranked lower… turnovers.
Rees has had a problem with turnovers at times in his career and the biggest problem with them has been when and where they’ve come. Rees has had some brutal turnovers at times (see Michigan 2011) that have occurred at the least opportune moments (see Florida State 2011) in the worst areas (see Tulsa 2010). If Rees does not cut down on the turnovers from his sophomore campaign in 2011, the Irish offense will struggle to consistently score points this season and Rees could find himself on the sideline from time to time just as he did in 2011.
Rees will need to use his experience and savvy to overcome his physically limitations around mobility and arm strength in order to keep the starting job all year and not tempt Brian Kelly to call up the bullpen – something he has never been to hesitant to do at any point in his career.
What would a successful 2013 season be for Tommy Rees?
If Rees starts all 12 regular season games and Notre Dame’s bowl game, his season will almost certainly be a success because it will mean that he played well enough to force Brian Kelly to keep him on the field which in term should mean a successful win-loss record for the Fighting Irish this fall.
In terms of productions, the main stat that Rees will be defined by is that win-loss record. Anything short of 10-2 in the regular season will be considered a disappointment and the first place Notre Dame fans will look to voice their displeasure will be the starting quarterback. A 10-2 regular season, however, would be tough to argue with… and in turn neither would a career record of 23-6 since that is what Rees would accumulate with a 10-2 regular season.
Stat wise, there really is not a reason for Rees to do any worse than his 20 touchdowns from 2011. No, he won’t have Michael Floyd or Tyler Efiert as he did then, but he will have a deeper receiving corps and a stronger line protecting him. Turnovers wise, Rees will need to cut down on the 14 interceptions and 5 lost fumbles from 2011 in a big way. Expecting single digit turnovers might be a bit unrealistic, but cutting down his turnovers to one a game should not be too much t ask of a senior quarterback.
A 2013 season of 3,000+ yards, 22 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions (3 lost fumbles) and a 10 win regular season gets Notre Dame to a BCS bowl and puts Rees right up there among the all-time passing leaders in Notre Dame history.