The internet was a buzz earlier this week when news began to circulate that Brian Kelly named Tommy Rees the starting quarterback for the 2013 season. Turns out that that there might still be the obligatory Notre Dame quarterback derby this summer after all and even if Kelly has made that decision, that doesn’t mea he can’t change his mind.
On Wednesday, Steve Kaminski of Michigan Live published a report with some pretty definitive quotes from a talk Kelly gave earlier tin the week.
“We always move forward,” Kelly said. “I don’t live in the past, and I don’t spend too much time in the future. I live in the present, and in the present, we have Tommy Rees. We have Tommy Rees, who is an established player, and he will be our starter. We think Andrew Hendrix and Malik Zaire can contribute, but Tommy will be our starter.”
Not much wiggle room in those quotes there.
A day later, however, Irish Illustrated tweeted that Rees has, in fact, not been named the starting quartering back.
It’s possible that Kelly was just stating that he expects Rees to be his starter in 2013 and honestly, why wouldn’t he right now? He’s seen Rees start 17 games – winning 13 of them – over the last three years. He’s seen Malik Zaire take reps as the #3 quarterback in all of 15 practices to this point in his career and he’s had Andrew Hendrix right in front of him for three years and has not given the senior signal caller a single start to this point in his career.
Brian Kelly has leaned on Tommy Rees Before
Much like last year when Kelly turned to Rees in times of adversity early in the season, Kelly will likely lean heavily on Rees in 2013 until he sees what he has in Zaire. In fact, in many ways, Rees has almost served as a security blanket for Kelly throughout his time at Notre Dame. When Dayne Crist struggled in the 2011 season opener, he was quick to insert Rees. When Everett Golson struggled against Michigan last fall, Kelly was quick to pull the first year starter in favor of Rees.
I expect to hear Kelly state, at least publicly, that there is an open competition at quarterback in fall camp, but I also don’t expect him to name anyone but Rees – baring injury – as his starting quarterback when Temple comes to town the last day of August.
In year four at Notre Dame, Kelly can’t afford too much of a let down from last season’s 12-1 record. Without Golson expectations have already lowered for the Irish in the eyes of the fans and media, but too much of a deviation from 2012’s perfect regular season could effect Notre Dame on the recruiting trail – an area that Kelly and staff excelled at a year ago thanks to them momentum and exposure that 12-0 mark generated.
With Rees at the helm, Notre Dame has a quarterback who has played in pressure packed situations and excelled. Yes, in 2011 Rees threw 14 interceptions but people seem to forget that Rees was just a true sophomore that year. Last year Rees came off the bench more than once and looked like a different quarterback.
Eligibility wise, rolling with Rees at quarterback in 2013 makes the most sense for Notre Dame too. Assuming Golson returns to campus for the spring semester, he would be right back in the mix at quarterback with two years of eligibility remaining. If Zaire plays this year, he would have just three years of eligibility left heading into 2014. If Kelly can navigate the 2013 season using mainly Rees and inserting Andrew Hendrix as a change of pace while preserving a year of eligibility for Zaire, he maintains a quarterback depth chart that is much more aligned for future success.
Brian Kelly is known to make quick quarterback changes
All of this said, a lot can change between now and August 31. A lot can also change once the Irish start facing live competition. Remember, as late as August 2011 Kelly fully intended on Dayne Crist starting 12 games for Notre Dame that season. It took two quarters of game action that season for Crist to get pulled and never start another game for Notre Dame.
So, right now Tommy Rees may indeed be the starting quarterback for Notre Dame on August 31 at 3:30. That doesn’t guarantee that he will be on September 7 – or even 5:00 pm on August 31 for that matter.