According to reports from MLive.com, Brian Kelly named Tommy Rees as Notre Dame’s starting quarterback during a speech at Grand Valley State’s Enrichment Dinner. With spring practice over and summer sessions beginning, Kelly clearly wanted to give Rees time to assert himself as a leader on the football team and to provide the team with some continuity when they start practice in August. The announcement will receive harsh criticism from Irish fans who suffered through a turnover plagued 8-5 season two years ago with Rees at the helm.
In 2011 Rees threw for 14 interceptions and routinely baffled fans with his decision making. Rees’ inability to escape or evade pressure during that season forced him to make errant and ill-advised throws and severely hurt Notre Dame’s team. Kelly chose Golson to start in the 2012 season because he needed a dynamic player he could use his athleticism to avoid negative plays. Golson routinely avoided the rush and rolled the pocket to either throw or run which forced defenses to blitz less and play contain. In the Pittsburgh, Boston College, Michigan State and Stanford games Golson’s athleticism created opportunities in the passing game and, more importantly, avoided negative plays. With Rees, defensive coordinators will salivate at the prospect of facing a pure pocket passer with limited mobility. Defenses will blitz more often placing pressure on projected starters C Nick Martin and G Connor Hanratty.
But everything is not all gloom-and-doom with Tommy, as a matter of fact Rees’ greatest strength was Kelly’s biggest frustration with Golson. Rees’ proficiency at reading defenses and his extensive preparation for each game helps him to evaluate formations and make the correct pre-snap reads and adjustmetns. After three years as a starter and hybrid back-up/closer, Rees understands the strengths and weaknesses of almost every opponent on Notre Dame’s 2013 schedule, a huge advantage during pre-snap reads. Rees needs to use his football acumen to avoid the negative plays and effect the game in the same way Golson did with his athleticism (see Peyton Manning). Moreover if Notre Dame’s offensive line gels and the running game produces, Rees can deliver the accurate downfield throws that Golson routinely avoided and produce the big plays the offense requires.
In 2012 Notre Dame survived tight games because they controlled the ball. In 2013 they face another difficult schedule where they cannot afford to make huge mistakes and, more importantly, they need to make plays. If Rees struggles early don’t be surprised if Kelly pulls the trigger quickly for Andrew Hendrix, or even better, Malik Zaire.