FORT WAYNE – Brian Kelly is turning to Tommy Rees again.
Kelly told the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Press that Rees will be Notre Dame’s starting quarterback this season.
Everett won’t be with us in the fall, I’ve always moved forward, Kelly told the Grand Rapids Press’ Steve Kaminski when asked about the quarterback situation Wednesday at Grand Valley State’s Enrichment Dinner, where the coach and his wife, Paqui, were honored with the Leadership Award.
I don’t live in the past. I don’t spend too much time in the future. I live in the present, and the present is I’ve got Tommy Rees, who is a starter for us, established player, and he’ll be our starter. And we think that Andrew Hendrix and Malik Zaire are guys who can contribute, but Tommy will be our starter.
Kaminski shared audio of Kelly’s answer with The Journal Gazette.
Kelly had to find a new starting quarterback when Everett Golson was suspended from Notre Dame for the fall semester because of an academic issue.
Golson, who didn’t play as a freshman, started 11 of 13 games and went 10-1 for the Irish last season as a sophomore. He guided Notre Dame to the No. 1 ranking at the end of the season and his only loss was to Alabama in the BCS championship game Jan. 7.
Rees, who will be a senior this season, is the logical choice to take over as the starter.
Rees is 14-4 as a starter and has thrown for 4,413 yards with 34 touchdowns and 24 interceptions in 34 games in three seasons.
Hendrix, who will also be a senior, has played in eight games, throwing for 304 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Zaire will be a freshman this season, but he did participate in spring camp after enrolling at Notre Dame in January.
Rees’ first shot at starting for Notre Dame came when Dayne Crist was lost to a knee injury late in the 2010 season.
Rees, who played in nine games as a freshman, started the final four games of 2010. He went 4-0 with wins over Utah, Army, USC and Miami, throwing for 1,106 yards with 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Crist started the first half against South Florida in the 2011 season opener at Notre Dame Stadium. But after a halftime that was extended by a severe storm, Rees took over at quarterback and remained the starter for the rest of his sophomore season.
Rees went 8-4 that season, throwing for 2,871 yards with 20 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
Rees proved valuable last season after he lost the starting job to Golson in fall camp. Kelly turned to Rees for the final drive in Notre Dame’s 20-17 home win over Purdue on Sept. 8, and Rees came in again when Golson struggled in a 13-6 home win over Michigan on Sept. 22.
Rees also started in the Irish’s 41-3 win over Miami at Chicago’s Soldier Field on Oct. 6, though he played only the first series as Golson was held out for disciplinary reasons. Rees finished Notre Dame’s 20-13 overtime home win against Stanford on Oct. 13 when Golson suffered a concussion and started the Irish’s 17-14 home victory over BYU when Golson wasn’t ready to return the next week.
Rees threw for 436 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in 12 games last year.
Kelly said on a teleconference May 28 that Rees, Hendrix and Zaire would compete for the starting job. Kelly also said Rees will have to cut down on turnovers if he expects to remain Notre Dame’s starting quarterback.
Tommy knows exactly what the expectations are for him, Kelly said during the teleconference after Golson’s dismissal. And he was a huge part of our undefeated season. He’s going to be a part of this season as well. He knows what we expect of him on a day-to-day basis, and just like a guy who can’t make tackles, he’s probably not going to be on the field if he can’t tackle, and you’re probably not going to be on the field if you throw interceptions, whether you’re Tommy Rees or Malik Zaire or Everett Golson. That’s pretty established in our program as to what the expectations are.
Notre Dame opens the season at home against Temple on Aug. 31.