Kelly names Rees starting quarterback

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Editors Note: While there’s no doubt that Rees will be the starting quarterback against Temple, the headline of this story has been tweaked to be a little less definitive, as talking at a banquet hardly construes an official announcement.

UPDATE: It appears that Kelly did more than hint at Rees being the frontrunner for the starting job. Per an updated write-thru by Steve Kaminski at MLive.com, Kelly clarified his stance that Rees is indeed going to be the starting quarterback, at least heading into fall camp.

The quote has been adjusted in the body of the story.

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Brian Kelly wasn’t comfortable naming a starting quarterback last week. Tasked with replacing Everett Golson after an academic suspension cost him the 2013 season, Kelly punted when asked who will take over behind center, instead willing to give seniors Tommy Rees, Andrew Hendrix and true freshman Malik Zaire a chance to win the job.

But when speaking at a gathering at Grand Valley, where Kelly built his professional life and coaching career, he identified Rees as his starting quarterback. The decision shouldn’t be a surprise, but it begins to clarify the offensive game plan moving forward.

According to MLive.com, Kelly discussed the state of the Irish football program after being honored with the Leadership Award during Grand Valley’s Enrichment Dinner.

“We always move forward,” Kelly said, via MLive.com. “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.”

“We are under construction right now,” Kelly added. “It’s 2013, and we are putting our football team together. But the foundation is there, just like it was there at Grand Valley and when we left Central Michigan and Cincinnati. We think we have a good foundation.”

Rees has spent his fair share of time in the starting lineup for the Irish, winning the final four games of the 2010 season before taking over for Dayne Crist at halftime of the season opener and playing out the rest of 2011’s 8-5 campaign. When turnovers doomed an Irish offensive that was the most explosive of Kelly’s era in South Bend in 2011, the head coach adopted a new, more conservative offensive philosophy, one that he road to the BCS Championship game, even with a rookie quarterback starting and Rees playing the role of super sub.

Somebody has to start as No. 1 on the depth chart heading into offseason conditioning, so this headline shouldn’t surprise people, nor should the timing. That said, expect Kelly to prepare all three arms with a package that could help the Irish win. For Rees, that’s a veteran signal caller that’s got a mastery of the offense. For Hendrix, it’s hopefully taking advantage of his size and power. An with Zaire, the Irish have a dangerous option trigger man who is also impressing both Kelly and offensive coordinator Chuck Martin with his grasp of the offense.

Still, it’s Rees’ job heading into summer voluntary workouts — not exactly a surprise for one of the team’s leaders and most experienced offensive players. But after meeting with members of the team after they returned to South Bend, it appears that Kelly is confident that Rees can get past the turnovers that plagued him two seasons ago and play good enough football to win games.