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Kelly names Tommy Rees starter against Michigan

Sep 6, 2011, 12:33 PM EDT

Tommy Rees USF

Just a few days after relieving Dayne Crist at halftime and throwing for 296 yards in the second half, sophomore Tommy Rees was named starting quarterback against Michigan by head coach Brian Kelly.

“We’re going to start Tommy Rees against Michigan,” Kelly said. “As we had talked about relative to Dayne, we talked about production. Tommy was very productive in the second half and he’ll get the chance to start against Michigan.”

The decision isn’t really a shock after the Irish offense sprung to life under Rees after he came in after a two hour, ten minute halftime. Most notably, Rees and wide receiver Michael Floyd drove the offense, with the sophomore connecting with Floyd ten times for 117 yards and two touchdowns.

Rees also threw two interceptions, the first in the red zone after a football bounced off sophomore receiver TJ Jones’ helmet. The second came after the second weather delay, with Rees trying to force a throw to a double-covered Floyd.

“I’ve got to be careful we’re not trying to feed the ball to Mike when he’s being doubled,” Kelly said of Rees. “But those other guys, Theo (Riddick), TJ (Jones), Tyler Eifert, need to step up.”

Kelly was quick to support Crist, his senior quarterback that was only given a half to prove he deserved to be the starting quarterback. Yet he also hinted at the main reason why he’s confident that Rees should be the starter going forward.

“The difference between good and great is being decisive,” Kelly said.


  1. schuey73 - Sep 6, 2011 at 12:45 PM

    Let’s all get behind Tommy Rees. He’s the man now. I feel terrible for Crist, but he has to be ready also.

    Go Rees! Go Irish! Beat Michigan.

    • dickasman - Sep 7, 2011 at 12:56 PM

      On the third day of Christmas, my true love sent to me……Can we get a different punt return man back there now please?

  2. nudeman - Sep 6, 2011 at 12:46 PM

    “The difference between being good and great is being decisive”.
    Translation: Dayne was tentative and made bad decisions.

    This supports the theory I posted on the other discussion where I believe that Crist is too anxious to get rid of the ball and checks down too easily. Just my opinion, but I think this is attributable to his surgeries.

    Has Kelly thrown Crist totally overboard? Maybe he’ll tell us in a straightforward way who #2 is, and maybe it’s Dayne; or maybe we’ll see Golson warming up when Rees gets hit hard.

    In any case:

    1. I feel bad for Crist; he waited patiently behind for Clausen for his turn, went through a coaching change, a new offense not ideal for his skills, and two surgeries; wins the job and gets yanked after a bad half of football. Wow. One bad half. That tells me Kelly was never really confortable with him.
    2. Stars rising: Rees and Golson
    3. Stars falling: Crist, obviously
    4. Forgotten man: Hendrix. I wonder where he’ll transfer to.

    • tedlinko - Sep 6, 2011 at 1:07 PM

      I feel bad for Crist too, but only to a point. The starting QB at the University of Notre Dame has to be able to get it done. For the first 3 1/2 minutes he looked outstanding, but after the fumble return, he didn’t look like the same player.

      Yes, it was one bad half of football (and it certainly wasn’t all on Crist). Problem is, when your goal is the BCS, one bad half of football can destroy your season.

      I don’t buy this “Kelly was never really comfortable with Crist” stuff. It isn’t about that. You have to remember that Crist was only named the starter by a whisker. Given that Crist looked tentative and ineffective, and Rees looked decisive, and overall was more effective, Kelly had to make the change. When he looked at the game tape, he saw what we all saw. The offense plays better with Rees on the field. It’s about winning football games and Tommy gives us the best shot. He’d be destroyed in the press and in ND Nation (and rightly so) if he didn’t make the change.

      • nudeman - Sep 6, 2011 at 1:22 PM


        Good points, all of them. But we disagree on the depth of support for Crist. Here’s what I think:
        1. In his gut, Kelly felt Rees was a more natural QB and a better fit
        2. But he was torn because Crist is (I think) an upstanding guy, has great physical skills, is a Senior who’s waited for his turn and worked hard to overcome 2 surgeries.
        3. So he let that influence his decision to give Crist the keys to the offense.

        So when I say “he was never really comfortable”, I’m NOT saying he thought Crist was a bum; I’m saying he had a nagging feeling it wasn’t right, and that was the reason for the quick trigger.

        If he truly, deeply and passionately believed in Crist, do you think he’d have yanked him after ONE HALF? He wasn’t “terrible”. He was average or slightly below average. So I say the answer is emphatically “no”. So that leaves me feeling his commitment to Crist was a mile wide and an inch deep. Right move/wrong move? Dunno. We’ll see.

    • 1notredamefan - Sep 6, 2011 at 8:27 PM

      nudeman – Aug 5, 2011 at 4:54 PM

      Agree. I love Crist.
      Big, good arm, mobile (enough).
      Seems like a future NFLer to me.

      So? I guess from what I’m reading from you in the past, example above, you were also a mile wide and an inch deep? There were very few Reece supporters before Sat. and I can only hope Kelly’s reasoning was based on a couple of your points made above, but I rather doubt he was basing such an important decision on “feeling bad” for the guy!

      If you and countless others were that comfortable why couldn’t Kelly be?

      • nudeman - Sep 7, 2011 at 11:22 AM

        Who is “Reece”?

      • 1notredamefan - Sep 7, 2011 at 8:38 PM

        I Don’t Know? Good question????? O ya Spelling error…….Sorry Tommy……..
        But anywho he’s that guy you wanted on the bench 4 days ago…I kid 😉

      • dickasman - Sep 8, 2011 at 12:08 AM

        Yeah but in kelly’s system, Dane is a square peg in round hole. We all knew that. But like nudeman said, he is a senior who waited his turn patiently, hardworking good kid. I do not blame BK for naming this kid the starter to begin the season but also glad that he pulled him….So is Hendrix. I don’t care what you read about Hendrix, he’s not a running QB nor BK’s ideal QB. Tommy Rees and Everrette Golson are your typical BK system QB’s. BK actually prefers these 3 star guys who want to prove that they’re something rather than having a 5 star QB with all the necessary tools as that is absolutely worthless in BK’s system. Unlike the pro set system, BK’s system does not rely as much on arm strength and other measurable tangibles that the coaches and scouts drool over but rather witty, accuracy, timing and having a giant set of balls(moxie) to put up with all of his screaming. See Tony Pike, Ben Mauk, zack collaros. If you ever see these guys play, they played very well within BK’s system. Outside of that, nobody would want these kids to be their starting QB. I am sure that this has something to do with the fact that BK’s always had to do more with less where he has been previously. It is my opinion that Crist should probably transfer out next year to a pro set system where he will suceed and Hendrix will probably do the same. Then BK will be left with Rees and Golson which is ideal situation for BK anyways.

  3. tedlinko - Sep 6, 2011 at 12:54 PM

    “The difference between good and great is being decisive,” Kelly said.

    Bingo. The struggle between Crist and Rees has always been the contrast between the guy with the natural skills, the prototype body type, the arm, etc, and the one with the decision making ability. Tommy doesn’t always make the right decision (like forcing the ball to MF into double coverage last week (or the terrible interception at the end of the Tulsa game) but he’s decisive. And if he makes a bad play, it doesn’t affect the next one (or the rest of the game for that matter).

    Dayne is just inconsistent, and a lot of it looks to me like overthinking. Indecisiveness is what leads to late throws and picks like the one in the second quarter on Saturday.

    I have to believe that part of what Tommy has comes from being a coach’s son. But partly it’s just personality and internal makeup. In any case, it is clear that the team overall plays better with him behind center. They feed off his confidence.

    (By the way, we saw this last year in the 4 game run to end the season. At the time I actually thought maybe Crist’s ND career was done — but I also ascribed a lot of the turnaround to the growth in the defense. Clearly, the defense IS stronger, but it’s more than that. The offense is stronger with Rees.)

    • dickasman - Sep 8, 2011 at 12:12 AM

      I think Dayne’s trying too hard to fit into a system where he’s not a fit. He loves ND(probably to his detriment). He wants to succeed at ND. I don’t blame the guy. I feel real bad for him. But he should graduate and get his degree from ND and then promptly transfer to another school that would best utilize his pro set skills. Hendrix should do the same as these guys just are not a good fit with BK’s system.

  4. mattnef - Sep 6, 2011 at 12:58 PM

    Not surprising. No way he could go backwards now.
    But the real question is what happens if Rees goes 13-24 with 1 TD and 2 INTs and the Irish are down 24-10 at the half this Saturday. Does Rees get more latitude than Crist? Does Crist come in? Golson? Hendrix? In one game the Irish QB position has become a crap shoot.
    That being said I liked both schuey’s post for the enthusiasm and nudeman’s post for honesty and I agree with all 4 of his points.
    Rees is now the man. Please beat Michigan. I can’t take it from my UM alumni friends another year.

    • nudeman - Sep 6, 2011 at 1:13 PM

      I hope Tommy lights it up Saturday. But you ask the perfect question: What happens if he is mediocre or poor, and they lose? And if they lose Saturday and he has to make another QB decision (now or later; and whatever the reason, injury or performance), there’s no way he goes back to a Senior QB. He’ll be looking forward and going with Golson.

      I’ll say it again: Irrespective of whether this is the right or wrong decision, I feel bad for Crist. He has to be asking himself “why the f**k did I come here?” Tough life lesson. Looks like he’s finished at ND.

  5. brendanunderscoreg - Sep 6, 2011 at 1:04 PM

    Let the 2011 ND football season (v 2.0) begin!

  6. danno27 - Sep 6, 2011 at 1:24 PM

    I put the blame for this loss right where it belongs – on Keith for not doing the livecast and instead reverting to the twitters.

    • brendanunderscoreg - Sep 6, 2011 at 1:46 PM

      Hahaha. I tried submitting a few questions within the livestream application but it was too tough to watch seeing as it was delayed a good 5 seconds on my computer while I was sitting in front of a TV. Ended up just watching the big screen. And I was also at a party (and was afraid of getting called a nerd).

    • bernhtp - Sep 6, 2011 at 1:49 PM

      You’re right, it is Keith’s fault. Twitter is really crappy for this purpose. Halfway through the game, I found and logged into the Livecast blogging hosted by the ND Observer for my live color commentary.

      I wish Dayne well. He seems like a truly great kid that exemplifies so many ND values. I hope he has another chance at redemption and can positively contribute, but certainly not at the expense of Tommy doing poorly or getting injured.

      • papadec - Sep 6, 2011 at 10:52 PM

        Get the torches & pitch forks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

    • borromini - Sep 6, 2011 at 1:51 PM

      True…once the team found out what KR had done…it was over before it started. :-)

      • bostonjan - Sep 6, 2011 at 9:38 PM

        Right….Keith’s insights (as well as those by we livecast bloggers) are so universally valued by the Irish players & coaches that they must have been on the sidelines trying to log onto the twitter. I tried and was so frustrated that I gave up….this old dog can’t twitter/tweet.

        Hope Keith goes back to the livecast blogging format, I missed it.

    • 1notredamefan - Sep 6, 2011 at 8:35 PM

      Haha that’s great I made the same remark about me being superstitious at the beginning of the game and hoping no-live-blog screwed everything up…..Thanks alot Keith 😉 GO IRISH!!!

      • 1notredamefan - Sep 6, 2011 at 8:36 PM

        *Didn’t* screw everything up

      • flandersst1 - Sep 6, 2011 at 9:38 PM

        Agreed, the twitter blog screwed us all!

  7. notredamegrad - Sep 6, 2011 at 1:36 PM

    What struck me was how carefully Kelly defended Crist at the press conference (basically, “if you watch the tape, he did some very good things out there and didn’t have much help”) and continued to insist that he has two very good QBs capable of running their offense and playing well for them. He said “Tommy Rees will start for us against Michigan,” bemoaned the possibility of being in a position where you’re going with the “hot hand” throughout the season, and dodged a question about whether Rees would start all 12 games. He isolated productivity as the key for triggering this decision, and in his words, if his QB (Rees included) isn’t productive, he better be looking over his shoulder. He also implied that Hendrix and Golson are not in any place to run the offense right now. If Rees doesn’t show up all game Saturday, or the next Saturday, or the next, I would be shocked not to see Crist right back in there in relief.

    • nudeman - Sep 6, 2011 at 1:47 PM

      “I would be shocked not to see Crist right back in there in relief”

      You can make that point, and it’s reasonable, but I don’t agree. Did you see Keith’s item that when Rees was knocked down Saturday, it was Golson getting ready to come in?

      I think Crist is finished, unless it’s true that Golson and Hendrix are “not in any place to run the offense right now”. And the deeper into the season we get, the less of a chance you’ll see ever Crist again in a meaningful situation. Golson will only get more comfortable in practice and Crist will be more about the past than the future.

      • notredamegrad - Sep 6, 2011 at 2:02 PM

        Of course Kelly wasn’t going to put Dayne back in against USF after benching him. If he thought to run a play or two with Golson, that probably says more about Hendrix than about Crist’s spot on the depth chart moving forward.

        I agree that the deeper into the season we get, the lower the chance that Dayne will step in behind Rees. But take a look at Kelly’s presser – he seems very keen to keep Dayne in the discussion as a QB they have confidence in playing (not starting, but playing). Kelly just sounded a heck of a lot more rational about this whole thing than the people who were ready to burn Crist in effigy after Saturday. If he really was done with him, he probably wouldn’t have talked about him so much and in such a supportive manner.

      • nudeman - Sep 6, 2011 at 2:27 PM

        I didn’t see the press conference, but I’d like to know the context of his comments about Crist. First, I think he probably wants to show Crist some respect, and doesn’t want to lose him entirely. And again, Crist was NOT terrible against USF. So of course he’ll say some good things.
        Second, were his comments answers to specific questions about Crist? Or was he proactively offering up supportive comments?

      • notredamegrad - Sep 6, 2011 at 2:36 PM

        Nudeman, I appreciate your comments. You’ll have to take a look at it yourself to judge, but Kelly really honestly surprised me by how much he had to say about Crist and how positive he was. I really do like Crist and feel awful for him. Didn’t expect to see Kelly up there supporting him as he did.

        On another note, I also didn’t expect Kelly to concede that he needed to control his own emotions better, but there you have it.

      • notredamegrad - Sep 7, 2011 at 8:49 PM

        Just an interesting note regarding Golson grabbing his helmet when Rees took a hit late in the game: everybody has taken this to mean (1) Golson’s the next man in, or (2) Hendrix isn’t doing so well, or (3) Dayne is gone for good. I myself tied this to Hendrix’s performance and argued that Kelly may have decided to bench Crist for the rest of the game based on this (though not the season).

        Turns out Kelly (per his talk with the media Wednesday) would have put Dayne back in if Tommy was hurt. That pretty much destroys all of the conclusions drawn from Golson grabbing his helmet! Whoops.

  8. joeschu - Sep 6, 2011 at 1:36 PM

    Where was this “difference between good & great being decisive” when this staff was thrashing about with this QB decision? Clearly, their indecision about who it should be, and why, places them in the good, not great category.

    • borromini - Sep 6, 2011 at 1:55 PM

      Duh…in practices, the coaching staff doesn’t get to see their QBs under real game pressure. No matter how much you try to simulate game conditions, nothing can match the real thing in front of 81,000 people.

      If you feel the staff is good and not great…that’s your opinion, but your reason for it is faulty.

  9. joewyoming - Sep 6, 2011 at 4:46 PM

    ((long low whistle))

    Hope it’s right. Go irish.

    • 4irish - Sep 6, 2011 at 5:26 PM


  10. 1historian - Sep 6, 2011 at 6:05 PM

    The decision to start Rees is a no-brainer – Crist looked like a deer in the headlights in the first half. I am sure he is a fine young man, etc, and I feel for him but that’s the way it is.

    I did not see the sequence in which Golson got his helmet when Rees was hurt. I know this is an arbitrary question but – did he do it because he wanted to appear ready or because someone told him to? We’ve been hearing on and off about Hendrix’ arm strength, running ability, for what seems almost a year – he should get his chance. He looked good in the spring game, he has spent one whole season on the sideline watching and he deserves a chance.

    Kelly said Hendrix and Golson were nowhere near ready but he also said that Crist was the man for the next 13 games, and we all know how long that lasted.

    Does anyone out there know what a wolverine looks like when it is slinking away with its tail between its legs? Would anyone like to find out?

  11. ndgoldandblue - Sep 6, 2011 at 6:43 PM

    The funny thing is, the only reason why this team got a top-25 ranking coming into the season is because they ended last season on a four-game winning streak. Tommy was the guy at the helm during that winning streak. I read a lot of comments about how it was the defense, the simplified play-calling, and the circumstances (i.e. Utah’s thrashing the previous week, USC’s backup QB, etc.) that led to the victories, not Tommy’s production at quarterback. My wife and I went to the abomination that was the Navy game at the Meadowlands. As soon as Tommy came in, the Irish started moving the ball, and they were doing it with relative ease. My wife, who is still a bit of an Irish football novice, asked me, “Who is that guy? Maybe he should start?” At the time, I agreed, wholeheartedly. In a way, Tommy kind of reminds me a little of Clausen. Jimmy, as you all remember, had a pretty good but not overly powerful arm (see Rees’ arm strength improvement on Saturday), and he wasn’t very mobile. But, he never let the pressure faze him. I still remember the Purdue game. I was cursing everything in sight after that last Boilermakers’ touchdown, and then I see Clausen on the sideline nodding his head like, “Thanks for the challenge”. Jimmy, as you remember, made plenty of mistakes, but with the exception of the ’07 season, I never felt like the Irish were out of any game with him in there. On a side note, I am petrified of the rest of the season. I thought that the opener at home against South Florida was going to be a solid win. Now, if this team doesn’t get its act together, we could be staring at an 0-4 start to the season. At the big house, home against a ranked team (even if it’s Sparty), and at Pittsburgh is no cake walk. Will someone please reassure me and say that 3-1 is highly likely at the end of this month? Because a team with this much talent should never start the season with an 0-4 record. Frankly, I don’t think we had a team with this much talent under Weis. I could be wrong, but….I don’t know. Go Irish.

    • nudeman - Sep 6, 2011 at 7:37 PM

      Great post. A few comments:
      1. I think much too much has been made of the 4 game winning streak. They beat (if I recall) an overrated Utah team, Army (c’mon; Army?); a USC team playing w/out its starting QB and a Miami team that frankly stunk. Yes, Rees was the QB for all 4; and yes, played well, but not “great”. I am not ready to canonize the kid as some seem to want to. Having said that …

      2 … you know who he reminds me of? Joe Montana. No extraordinary physical talents, sort of an under the radar guy like Montana was early on at ND, no big arm, etc. But somehow he always comes through and has a real “feel” for the game. Kid doesn’t seem the least bit intimidated by the size of the stage, either.
      When Montana was there I remember saying “this guy is the best 4th quarter QB I’ve ever seen”. Rees has a ways to go to truly be Montana-esque; but just sayin’, the comparison is there. Maybe they have something special here.

      3. I liked Clausen, but it seems ND fans have turned on him. He was booed at an ND basketball game, I recall. Why? The kid took an enormous pounding his Frosh year thanks to Charlie’s “decided schematic advantage” and a horrible OL. He got better every year and his Senior season had something like a 25-4 TD/INT ratio on a team that still had a poor OL and – as we now know – a lousy coach. Exactly what was wrong with that?

    • papadec - Sep 6, 2011 at 10:40 PM

      Feel reassured – 3-1 is highly likely at the end of this month.

    • 4irish - Sep 7, 2011 at 8:57 AM

      “I read a lot of comments about how it was the defense”…Did you see the USC game last year? I think the Rees line was something like 3ints and a fumble… It WAS all about the defense, not to mention the run game coming alive….

  12. nddan1 - Sep 6, 2011 at 8:05 PM

    nudeman, i agree with ya on the montana likeness. i saw joe play every game for the niners. rees seems to have a feel as to where he is at on the field. he swims from the pocket and makes a passrusher miss. big plays will happen when the play breaks down, dayne doesnt have that intangable. sat. nites game will not be won because rees throws for 300yds, but becauae our defense must play their tales off, create turnovers, and take the pressure off of the offense. notre dame 27 michigan 13……………………….cant wait till sat. nite

    • nudeman - Sep 6, 2011 at 8:40 PM

      Hope you’re right about Saturday.

      Yes, I lived in SF during the Montana years too, and while I grew to hate 49er fans who became to believe they had an annual right to the SB (nothing personal there, nddan1) and anytime they didn’t get there was because of a bad call or bad break, I saw so many Montana comebacks I maintain he’s the best of all time.

      The drive against the Cowboys in 1981 that resulted in “The Catch” was pure poetry on the part of Montana and Walsh.

      Reverses to Freddie Solomon and Lenvil Elliot? Total brilliance.

    • bernhtp - Sep 7, 2011 at 8:06 PM

      While there are some similarities, Tommy is unfortunately not that athlete that Joe Montana was. Joe was a multi-sport star (baskeball, baseball, football, track), was very quick, won the ND Bookstore basketball tournament (was offered a basketball scholarship at NC State), and could even kick the longest punts on the team. Joe was an amazing athletic polymath.

      With that said, if Tommy become any significant fraction as good as Joe, ND will have some very good years ahead.

  13. trbowman - Sep 6, 2011 at 8:50 PM

    I like Dayne, but the only thing he has on Rees is arm strength.

    Rees has more moxie, is more accurate, has better timing with his receivers etc.

    I’m happy with this decision.

  14. 1historian - Sep 6, 2011 at 10:33 PM

    I’ve told this once a few months back I’m going to tell it again.
    1989 Superbowl – (As the story goes) Cincy has scored with just under 2 minutes to go. The offense is standing on the sideline and someone says “We’ve won the Super Bowl.” Someone else – Chris Collingsworth? – says – “Don’t be so sure – have you seen who’s playing Quarterback for San Francisco?” The reference of course is to Joe Montana.

    Kelly is looking for the guy who stays cool under fire, who inspires his teammates and who scares the defense just enough that they react maybe a quarter of a second late, which is all the offense needs. Who doesn’t look like a deer in the headlights when something goes wrong, but forgets it and proceeds to the next play. Crist does not fit that description. And maybe I’m reading too much into this (not the first time) but I remember a shot of Kelly getting in Rees’ face and Rees had (to me) a look on his face that said “I’d like to cold-cock this guy.” I like that.

    Is Kelly also looking for the guy who is not scared of him?

  15. 1historian - Sep 6, 2011 at 10:39 PM

    File this under “just wondering”: It’s 10:38 p.m. here in the east and Kelly’s decision is all over the internet EXCEPT at ND Nation.

    Why is that?

    Just wondering.

    • papadec - Sep 6, 2011 at 10:49 PM

      I saw the REES announcement here & at Irish Sports Daily around 10:00am (PT) this morning.

  16. mojosmagic - Sep 6, 2011 at 11:51 PM

    The Irish still play football?

  17. njgoldenboy3 - Sep 8, 2011 at 5:01 PM

    I believe that Brian Kelly and THE University of Notre Dame made a wise decision by selecting Quarterback Tommy Rees to be the starter against Michigan this Saturday Night. Before I continue, I just want to point out to every GOLDEN DOMER that Tommy has been undefeated in his first 4 career starts and has the best numbers any Notre Dame freshman could ever had last year. But this year, he has shown us that he is picking up where he has left off from last year against South Florida in the second half by throwing for two touchdowns and over 250 yds passing. Although the Irish lost that game, it still showed us that Tommy Rees is legit and will help Notre Dame climb over that mountain that we have been waiting for since 2006 which is a BCS BOWL GAME. God Bless Tommy Rees and GO IRISH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  18. dickasman - Sep 9, 2011 at 3:55 PM

    Guys, here’s a cute lil story about Rees…..Im liking this kid more and more. Im feeling less and less sorry for Jesus, I mean Dayne Crist.–20110909,0,819590.story

    Let’s hope this is true… not just this game but for entire season. Nobody, I mean Nobody needs/likes a lobsterface college football coach. Let’s see if we can keep our cool this week coach BK.
    Bo Pellini Kelly.,0,5359814.story

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