By Zac Ellis
Just two weeks after quarterback Everett Golson left Notre Dame with academic issues, Irish coach Brian Kelly shed light on the team's immediate future under center. Kelly told fans at an event on Wednesday that Golson's backup last season, Tommy Rees, will be Notre Dame's starting quarterback to begin the 2013 campaign, reports Steve Kaminski of Michigan's Mlive.com.
“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.”
Though Zaire is a highly touted recruit and Hendrix has a grasp of the offense, Rees is the most experienced option and was tabbed as the frontrunner to become Golson's replacement. Rees has 18 career starts and has seen action in 33 contests, amassing 4,413 passing yards and 34 touchdowns.
But Rees has struggled with accuracy in the past, completing only 57.6 percent of his passes and throwing 24 interceptions over his career -- including 14 as Notre Dame's starter in 2011. Moreover, Rees has a history of legal troubles.
The abrupt change at quarterback with Golson's departure was an unexpected development for Notre Dame, as Golson was cemented as the team's starter after leading the Irish to a 12-0 regular season and a BCS title berth in 2012. Now, Rees must take charge of an offense that loses a major chunk of production with the graduation of tailbacks Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood (1,659 yards, nine touchdowns). Rees can expect a strong offensive line, though, which brings back three starters. Senior wideout T.J. Jones (50 catches, 649 yards) could emerge as the main receiving target following the exit of tight end Tyler Eifert. Still, none of that will matter if Rees can't improve his accuracy in key situations, something that has plagued him throughout his Notre Dame career.