Mike McCoy

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 28:  Head coach Brian Kelly talks to Tommy Rees #11 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the New Era Pinstripe Bowl against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Yankee Stadium on December 28, 2013 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
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Sources: Rees headed back to Notre Dame as coach

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Tommy Rees is set to return to Notre Dame. Multiple sources tell Inside the Irish that Rees is poised to join Brian Kelly’s rebuilt coaching staff. He will work with the quarterbacks, though his formal role is still being finalized.

After working as an offensive assistant under Mike McCoy with the San Diego Chargers this year and beginning his coaching career with Pat Fitzgerald as a graduate assistant at Northwestern, Rees, Kelly’s longest-tenured starting quarterback, will now be asked to coach the very same position, tutoring Brandon Wimbush and a depth chart with zero starting experience.

Reached for comment by the South Bend Tribune, Rees denied having any contact with Notre Dame about a potential job. His status with the Chargers is still uncertain, with McCoy being fired shortly after the conclusion of San Diego’s season on Sunday.

A representative for the Irish football program denied any move was imminent, reiterating that no formal interview has taken place. But even if Kelly and athletic director Jack Swarbrick haven’t had a sit down with Rees, no official meeting is needed for either to know what they have in Rees—a young coach quickly climbing the professional ladder who knows Kelly’s offense as well as anybody.

While Rees has yet to serve as a full-time assistant at the college level, he could be a nice presence recruiting during the closing stretch, having played for Notre Dame’s embattled head coach and capable of selling the offense, as well as the program, built by the eighth-year head coach. That adds some urgency to the process, though a numbers crunch may necessitate Rees joining the program in an analyst role, then moving into a full-time role after the dust settles—or the NCAA expands to ten full-time assistants—legislation that’s expected to pass this spring.

Returning from the holiday break and with the NCAA’s recruiting dead period set to end next week, Kelly’s staff is still a bit of a mystery. Mike Elko’s been announced as the new defensive coordinator and Brian Polian will return to coordinate special teams. Memphis’ Chip Long has reportedly accepted the offensive coordinator job, though no official comment has come from South Bend.

The status of defensive line coach Keith Gilmore and analyst Jeff Quinn is still up in the air. Interim defensive coordinator Greg Hudson’s role is unknown as well. Rees’s spot, especially if Kelly plans to hire a wide receivers coach to replace Mike Denbrock, as is expected, may not be technically open without some flexibility from all parties.  A source also indicates a strength coach hire is just around the corner.

As a player, Rees was a three-star recruit who enrolled early in South Bend after committing to Charlie Weis. One of three quarterbacks that Kelly signed in his first recruiting class, Rees ended up playing in 46 games over four seasons, starting 31 times. He is Notre Dame’s career leader for completion percentage and is one of just four passers to throw for more than 3,000 yards in a single-season for the Irish, joined by Brady Quinn, Jimmy Clausen and Everett Golson.