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Rees settles into his role

SOUTH BEND – Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees had spent his first three seasons with the Irish with a chance at the starting job.

When he enrolled early as a freshman, it was a long shot that he would take the No. 1 spot from Dayne Crist. But Rees was called into duty at the end of that season, starting the final four games when Crist got injured.

As a sophomore, Rees was again in a battle with Crist for the starting role. Though Crist got the starting job, that only lasted for the first half of the opening game that season and Rees started 12 of 13 games.

Last year, Rees was battling to keep his starting spot, but he lost it to Everett Golson. Still, Rees played in 12 of 13 games and made two starts last year.

Rees is the clear No. 2 to Golson this year, and it is a role he has accepted. But he also hasn't changed how he practices.

"I'm still competing," Rees said Friday. "It's just a little different then it has been in the past. It is a little different, but when you step on the field, you are focused on football and just competing, you don't have time to think about that individual aspiration.

"You go out there and compete, and you are not OK with where you are at if you are not the starter. I understand how things work, but I'm still going to go out there and compete. If there is a time that I'm needed, just be prepared."

Rees has liked what he has seen from his fellow quarterbacks this spring, starting with Golson.

"I think he is just continuing to learn the offense and kind of grow of the field as a quarterback, getting into film study," Rees said. "He has come out and had a pretty nice spring. You can definitely tell he has made some strides forward."

Rees and fellow senior Andrew Hendrix are in about the same spot with both having to be ready as Golson's backups. Hendrix, who didn't play as a freshman, has been doing well, according to Rees.

"Andrew is kind of the glue that holds the quarterback room together," Rees said. "He gets along with everyone on the team. He's got a good personality. He's gotten better as well. He's come in here and competed. He's not complacent either and is doing a good job for us."

Rees said he is also seeing good things from early-enrollee Malik Zaire.

"He's done a nice job," Rees said. "It is hard coming in early, especially as a quarterback, especially when you have guys in front of you who have played and established themselves here with Everett, Andrew and myself. He has fit in well in the quarterback room, and he has come out here to compete. That is all you can ask for."

But it wasn't just Notre Dame quarterbacks that Rees was asked about Friday. The senior was also asked about his thoughts on Gunner Kiel, who decided to leave the Irish before the start of spring practice and enrolled at Cincinnati on Friday.

"I don't know if surprised is the right word," Rees said of the timing of Kiel's decision to leave. "For Gunner, it's just whatever he felt is best for him. He felt like he wanted an opportunity to play some where else. We wish him all the best moving forward. He's got a great opportunity to be a good player somewhere down the road.

"His timing, that was his decision. I'm not going to really put any input on that. I'm happy for him and that he does well."

Rees was also asked about his future beyond Notre Dame. He will have used all four years of his eligibility after this season.

"That's a big question for me," Rees said. "I've thought about. I have a couple ideas floating up. I've thought about going into coaching and some of those things.

"You take it one day at time, and I will see where I'm at after the season."