Tommy Rees Named Notre Dame’s Starter for ’13 by Brian Kelly – For Now

Tommy Rees - 2013 Notre Dame Starting Quarterback
Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Tommy Rees (11) in game action of the 2012 spring game at Notre Dame Stadium, in South Bend, IN. (Photo – Robin Alam / IconSMI)

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Kaminski of Michigan Live published a report with some pretty definitive quotes from a talk Kelly gave (MLive link no longer active) earlier tin the week.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.

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  1. Doesn’t matter how good Rees’s grasp of the offense is. He can’t run. His arm strength is weak and he does not have a go-to WR/TE. Coming on in relief, for brief periods, he can work, but as a starter, it is a disaster. His TD/TO ratio says it all.

  2. The pressure really isn’t on TR but the “O” coach(es) especially the QB coach. I read about so many other college kids working out in the off season with “this coach” and “that conditioning coach” but never do I see ND players trying to better themselves in the off season, off campus!
    If TR is a passing QB, model the offense after a Tom Brady or Peyto Manning style, those two hardly RUN a down!

    1. Then you’re clearly not paying attention. I can remember back to Jimmy Clausen inviting a handful of guys out to CA to work out, Dayne doings he same, even Davonte Neal last summer inviting a few guys to work out with him at his dad’s company in Arizona. And that is just the ones I have heard of and can remember while listening to this conference call zzzzzzzzzzz . . .

  3. Perhaps we should look at who starts at QB from a slightly different perspective.

    There is a lot of danger out there. Wolves, snipers, great defensive master minds.

    Michigan, Michigan St, Oklahoma, Pitt, BYU, and Stanford all bring very strong defensive teams, outstanding coaches, and superb game planners.

    Michigan has a outstanding defensive mind in Greg Matheson.
    Oklahoma, when healthy, is one of the hardest hitting teams around.
    Michigan State under Dantonio, has traditionally been strong on the defensive side of the ball.
    BYU has continually ranked in the top 10 in defense and gave us all we could handle last year.
    And the scariest of all is Stanford. No one moves, disguises, stunts, and blitzes more, or better, than a very fast and athletic Stanford defense. They have been giving everyone fits for years now.

    If you are going to try to match wits, dodge snipers, and have someone face down the wolves,(and Golson is no longer an option) maybe the wisest choice is the guy who has been there, already been through it, and proven to at least some degree, in being able to handle it.

    Unless Zaire shows great poise, skill, and maturity, and can be brought up to speed quickly, I see no other choice than to go with experience and wisdom.

    Experience, Leadership, and wisdon are not bad assets.
    Tommy Rees has utilized those qualities to compile a 14-4 record thus far at ND.

    1. This is the easiest and safest way to look at it. TR has the most experience. TR came in at times and bailed out a talented, but raw QB. Therefore, he should start. If you break it down, however, you always come back to the fact that a TR led ND team will win 8-9 games.

      TR does well with the pre-snap reads. However, he still lacks the physical skills. Last year, he was still doing the’chuck and duck’. That will not change this year.

      He had some success last year because he was a change of pace last year from EG

      1. Do you really think that AH or MZ can lead this team to 10-12 wins? They would both depend on the same things TR will – defense and the running game.

      2. That’s the point. I don’t know if AH or MZ can do it. I know TR can’t. Nobody who has responded to my comments has disagreed with that last sentence. If you cannot disagree with it, then why not try someone who MIGHT be able to do it?

      3. Mike, I’ll disagree with your point like this – whatever running game and defense it would take for AH or MZ to win 10-12 games could also carry TR to 10-12 wins. I think MZ might make a play here or there to win a game that TR would lose, but there is a bigger chance that TR wins another game or two that AH or MZ lose. In the end I think the ceiling is the same for all three but the floor is much lower for AH and MZ.

      4. TacomaDomer:

        I can agree with you that the floor for AH & MZ is lower than the floor for TR. However their ceiling is higher. You said so yourself when you said MZ can make plays that TR can’t. That’s the definition of what a ceiling is. I’ll risk the lower floor for the higher ceiling.

    2. I agree, with all the anti TR on his board, who needs enemies. I trust coach to do what he thinks is best and if it is Tommy all the way I support. Give the kid credit, if he does his very best for us, then he deserves to be supported by the ND fans.
      I personally think he will get a shot at the NFL.
      I do not think Golson will be back, Hendrix is after a doctors degree,MZ is green but full of potential and we just accepted anther triple threat QB in 2014 so we will be in great shape. I still think we are good for 8 or even 9 wins this year. Siene

  4. Mike, I will lodge a dissent to the concept that Notre Dame will win 8-9 games. The program, overall, is so much stronger than two years ago, and even last year. what is most astounding about 2012 is that our defense was so stellar despite a secondary made of string and sealing wax. It’s not the case this year. There are only two teams that can look us in the eye on talent, who have an actual coach: Michigan and Stanford. Usc is a coach shy of making the cut. We are vastly superior to the others, as Oklahoma has bee n Big 12’d and no long is a physical football team.

    What shocked me last year was the player development of players like Riddick, Daniels, Jones, Spond, fox, Tuitt, Nix and Motta. Player de velopment is what this staff does and I expect another half dozen or so to make remarkable improvements in playing ability and effectiveness.

    And I think both that the defense will be better than last year and the best since the beast that was the ’66 defense.

    Last year, we were getting ready to face Matt Barkley, Landry Joes, Denard Robinson, Chase Rettig, Tino Sunseri and others.

    I’ll give you Kelly from ASU, who is outstanding in Graham’s system..

    But riddle me this, Mike? (two part question)

    What was the percentage of improvement of the overall team from 2011 to 2012?

    What percentage improvement would you project for 2012 to 2013?

    1. To answer your questions, the first one – huge. The second -although there will be individual improvements, the team will digress this year as long as TR is the starting QB.

      Even though BK leaned heavily on defense last year, there were times when EG made plays to win ballgames that TR cannot and will not make. Last year’s close wins will be this year’s losses.

      I have a question for you. TR is NOT the answer. AH has the talent to run this offense better than TR but we don’t know if he can. The same can be said for Malik Zaire. Who would you start – Someone you KNOW cannot do it (TR), or someone who may or may not be able to do it (AH, MZ)? To me, the answer is obvious.

      1. Mike,

        I disagree with your analysis of TR. He has the best grasp of the offense out of any of the QB’s. He taught EG the offense last year. I think TR’s biggest problem is understanding who he is, TR is a point guard who can’t shoot. He needs to get the ball of of his hands quick to playmakers. The problem he had in 2011 was not moving the offense it was inside the 20. That can be atributed to one factor ND’s inability to run inside the 20. If they can run the ball and protect him he will be fine.

        AH is inaccurate and has proven this in games and in BG game. He is more of a run threat than a passing threat. I don’t think you have a better option with him.

        MZ is a freshman and should not be put on the field this year. He needs to learn the offense on the sidelines. If he is QB the team has mailed in the season.

        TR can’t make the plays EG can but he can get rid of the football faster in the hands of playmakers. TR needs to understand who he is and what he does well. If ND can run the ball this year, they will miss EG less. If they can’t run the ball look for a lot of drives ending with FG instead of TD’s.

      2. You’ve just described why TR would make a good coach, not a good QB. He has one strength over the others which is the pre-snap reads. He does have some leadership qualities but I think that’s due purely to getting on the field. EG had it toward the end of the season last year. No reason why AH orMZ would too if they were given all the opportunities TR was given for 3 years.

        He is last in every other skill or quality you look for in a QB. He has no strength or speed. He has no arm strength and is nowhere near accurate enough for an arm that weak. I
        he’s the best choice, I’ll live wi

      3. …my fat fingers got in the way.

        If he’s the best choice, then so be it. Just accept an 8-9 win season without a BCS berth and possibly an unranked season. I have

  5. I think the reality is that TR will start the season and barring injury will be the primary QB the whole year. Another reality is that ND will win 8-9 games.

    With that said, the author makes an incomplete point regarding BK’s quick hook on QB’s. It’s true he does — only when bringing TR INTO a game. He has a VERY SLOW hook when taking TR out of a game. And that’s going to continue this year and that will cost BK this year.

    I say start Andrew Hendrix. You KNOW TR cannot do it. You’re not sure that AH can. Personally, I can’t justify starting someone I know isn’t the answer just because there are too many question marks regarding the other choices. I do believe that BK must have serious reservations about AH. He’s seen him for 4 years and has yet to start him. However, AH has more talent and can run the offense the way it’s supposed to be run than TR.

    BK is supposed to be the QB guru. Maybe BK should announce AH to be the starter and coach him up to be good enough to get ND at least back to a BCS game. There are millions of dollars of reasons to expect nothing less.

    1. Mike, I completely disagree with most of what you said. Kelly has taken Rees out of games. He took him out in the Stanford and FSU games and put AH in. He took him out quickly in the Miami game last year though that was probably planned. I don’t think it’s fair to say he can’t do it based on limited PT in 2012 or what he did as a true sophomore. He has come into games and bailed out the “superstars” many times. I wish Golson hadn’t screwed up but he did and Tommy is the best option right now. That may change as we get closer to the season or throughout the season but he is what we have now and I think we can win more than 8 or 9 games with him. Because of a kick ass D and a really good OL and hopefully at least one decent RB.

  6. Right on Frank,

    Kelly’s got a quick hook for the QB’s and has now done a good job keeping the best QB on the field. Even though, there’s no offical 3 QB derby, BK has already stated in the South Bend Tribune, if your throwing interceptions you won’t be on the field. In all reality, BK knows he has to bring Zaire along quickly this year. How he does that is certainly his choice. To me, the real worry here is if for some strange reason Golson doesn’t make it back we will really be short on experience next year. Or the other Achilles Heel’ is, both Golson and Zaire show-up next with 1 yr’s experience at QB. A two man QB derby will ensue and I don’t have great confidence the loser will accept sitting on the bench. It is indeed, very difficult to be deep with experience at the QB position when outside elements are constantly changing the starting QB.

    1. Excellent point JC, I was thinking those same thoughts, especially if both MZ & EG end up competing against each other.

      1. One just never knows. If Kiel has stayed we would be in another situation. He could have been the started, but……..he was in a hurry. I think back when someone named McDougle, (I think) waited 4 years to become the starter).

  7. Lower expectations is certainly right. I’m not going to re-hash & bash a QB whom I believe the opposition has figured out to defense and I don’t believe is the season long answer, but, “it is what it is” and it’s what we have right now to use. I’m guessing TR will be under center vs Temple when it’s time to “tee it up.” I’m not saying the season is lost, but, I don’t think we will have season we had last year, even with a potentially better defense. If we develop a couple of “ball busting” RB’s that could sustain a hard hitting ground game (think Alabama style) so Rees doesn’t have to nearly throw the ball, I’d feel better, but, it doesn’t look like this is the case, at least right now. I hope I’m wrong, but, realistically, with QB questions, RB questions, and who will step up in the WR department, a lot of offensive if’s, there are some legitimate questions to be answered for 2013. Oh yeah, I guess there’s always special teams to lean on, huh?

    Go Irish

    1. @storespook – I do like your analysis!
      AND (not the contrary “but”) I think another perspective – or 2 – or 3 – or whatever – could only add to your thorough analysis.

      1) I think you are absolutely right re: “ball-busting RB’s”. Last year’s RBs were serviceable. But not championship-caliber ball-busters.
      2) The time is not running-out on BK. More TRUST and patience are in order.
      3) Your QB-analysis was spot-on.
      4) ND’s wild-card is DIACO. If Bob can assemble another coordinated defense that is near last year’s, (even I, a rabid ND-alumnus/fan, do not deign hope for an equally-awesome D) then this offensive conundrum can be placed on the back-burner.

      The key to being undefeated National Champs is being the best team on the field, each & every game. (winning) Speculation and doubt and hope and unbridled optimism ALL have their places.
      Speculation and doubt and hope and unbridled optimism do not play the games. And further, they do not WIN the games.

    2. Here is the main issue with Reese and the reason he lost his job ultimately to Golson, Can he score TD’s instead of turnovers inside the 20. He has a knack for moving the ball up and down  The field but can he score? This is where the running game must work and hasn’t for a long time at ND. Pushing people into the end zone for TD’s not FG’s. TR is fine with protection if he has no protection ND is in trouble.

      1. Spot on Jack,

        The running game is the key for TD’s this year. I don’t care if we have to play Nix as the “Frig” on offense. Hahaha! We need to find a way to blast holes. Being on the 20 and not scoring, well no comment yet. If not Nix, then a 2 or 3 TE set in the red zone to allow multiple options.

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