Brian Kelly Confirms Tommy Rees is Notre Dame’s ’13 Starting QB

Tommy Rees - Notre Dame 2013 Starting QB
Notre Dame fans will be used to seeing Brian Kelly and Tommy Rees talking on the sidelines again in 2013 after Kelly named him the starter for the 2013 season on Wednesday. (Photo: Chris Williams/Icon SMI)

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.


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  1. I have faith in Rees as a closer, but he has shown time and again that he has issues with being a starter. He doesn’t read the defense well enough and is too scared to step into and stay in the pocket. He runs at the first sign of trouble and rather than give the defensive line time to adjust, he runs and gets sacked. Clock management?! That is a joke. How many times did Rees call timeout when he forgot a play or got confused? Rees needs to think on the fly and be able to adjust to confusion more rapidly rather than waste timeouts. I was at three games last year, and he locked the games he played in for the Irish as any veteran backup QB could, but the loss of Golson is a huge misstep for ND. The Irish coaches fumbled the ball this time by not making sure the heart of the offense was doing his job academically. As much as he did for the team, Golson needs to stay gone after the crap he pulled.
    Hendrix has huge potential and could easily step into the QB role much as Golson did. He is not afraid to run the ball and he has great speed getting around and out of the pocket when he needs to. Kelly needs to develop him as a replacement for Golson and send a message that what Golson did is unacceptable for a team with such a high academic caliber as the Irish.

  2. For obvious reasons, it is a good thing that Tommy Rees doesn’t have to compete for starting quarterback during a charity gold tournament. All those sand traps would give any quarterback problems.

    The one thing we have learned is that Kelly does not always speak directly. But wrapped inside what he says are clues to what he means. In saying that Hendricks “can help our offense” while Zaire will “continue to grow,” Kelly is implying that his plan is to use Hendricks as the backup while Zaire learns and takes a redshirt year. That would indeed be ideal. We’ll see if Kelly can get through the year without using Zaire and burning a year of his eligibility.

  3. There are a lot of aspects of being a starting QB than just
    running / scrambling ability or the amount of arm strength a QB may have.

    TR knows the offense. He knows the play book. He has been in Kelly’s system for a while now.
    He is the best available QB at reading defenses, checking out of a play at the line, or recognizing a blitz.
    Currently, his timing with the receivers is probably better than the other 2 QB’s.
    I’m pretty sure that he is more proficient and experienced at breaking down game film, as well as learning and implementing a game plan.
    As a senior, He probably has a stronger bond with his coaches.
    He knows what the the coaching staff wants, and can most likely communicate with them better.
    He appears to have the confidence and respect of his team mates.
    I would venture to say that he is the QB most adept at running the 2 minute drill or no huddle offense.
    Better at clock management, better at understanding game situations,
    and better at operating in pressure situations or playing in front of 100k hostile fans on the road.

    I think we can all agree that Kelly prefers to run an up tempo offense.
    At this time, I think TR gives him the best option to do so as well.

    1. Spot on Shaz,

      The other two definately have steep learning curves, Hendrix and Zaire in that order. Not that they cannot rise to the next man in concept when called upon. If BK so desires.

      Amen Frank, I suspect BK will customize all QB options to make things work as he has since he’s been here. Next year we get what we get based on this year. Still a very luxurios pool of talent.

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