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Pope: Getting QB question out of way early a good move for ND’s Brian Kelly

Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees throws pass during spring practice April 13 2013  South Bend Ind. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)

Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees throws a pass during spring practice April 13, 2013 in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond) ORG XMIT: injr208

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Updated: July 16, 2013 6:29AM



The timing took some by surprise. But not the message.

Last week, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said Tommy Rees would be the starting quarterback for the upcoming season. He let it be known while attending Grand Valley State’s Enrichment Dinner.

“We always move forward,” Kelly said, according to the Grand Rapids Press. “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.”

The quote caught some off guard because a few days earlier Kelly said that Rees, Hendrix and Zaire would “all have the opportunity to compete and be the starter” in the aftermath of Everett Golson’s suspension for the fall term.

Earlier this week, Kelly elaborated on the decision, including the timing.

“When I was first asked (who the starter would be), we were within 24 hours of Everett not being with us,” Kelly said Wednesday while at the Irish Legends golf outing at Lost Dunes Country Club, according to the South Bend Tribune. “I’m not going to commit to anything until I’d gotten a chance to think about it. My initial comments were dealing with the present situation. I hadn’t gotten a chance to think about Everett not being our starter.

“As I had a chance to think about it, Tommy does not have to fight to be the No. 1 quarterback. We think that Andrew can compete and help our offense, and Malik is going to continue to grow. It gave me some time to sit back and think and respond accordingly.”

I think it’s smart to get the decision out of the way in June.

Quarterback is always a topic of discussion. But at least now Notre Dame won’t have to enter fall camp with one more lingering question.

And Rees is the most logical choice. He’s the most experienced quarterback returning for the Irish. The senior has appeared in 33 games and has 18 starts for the Irish. He has thrown for 4,413 yards, 34 touchdowns and 24 interceptions while completing 63.6 percent of his of passes.

Rees appeared in 11 games last season and made two starts. He had 436 passing yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Among his highlights, he helped the Irish get in position for a game-winning field goal Sept. 8 against Purdue. He completed 3 of 6 passes for 35 yards on the scoring drive.

Rees played in 13 games in 2011 and made 12 starts. He had 2,871 passing yards, 20 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He had 1,106 passing yards, 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 2010.

All that experience adds up.

Hendrix has played in eight games and has 304 passing yards and one touchdown. He’s also rushed for 203 yards. Zaire enrolled at Notre Dame in January.

Of course, it won’t all be on Rees to make up for the loss of Golson. The redshirt freshman, who helped the Irish reach the Bowl Championship Series title game, said in a May 26 statement that he was suspended for the fall term from the university because of “poor academic judgment.”

“You don’t expect Tommy Rees to replace him. But what everybody else has to do is pick up a little bit of the load,” former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz told The Associated Press at the same golf outing on Wednesday.

With quarterback settled, the focus on offense will return to other position battles that heated up during the spring. Spots on the line at running back and tight end each drew interest.

Having the quarterback spot established — and filled with someone filled with plenty of playing time — is one less hurdle.

“We’re very fortunate that we have experienced quarterbacks in Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix,” Kelly said on May 28. “These guys have been in our program. They’ve been with us going on our fourth year. We have great relationships, a great understanding of our offense. It’s going to be a challenge (losing Golson for the fall), but one we think we can overcome.”



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