Tommy Rees

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Four-star WR Micah Jones chooses Irish; Rees may need to wait; Other late-week reading

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A day may come when Notre Dame suffers a recruiting disappointment in the 2018 cycle, when a high school star spurns the Irish coaching staff for a foe, but it is not this day.

Rivals.com four-star receiver Micah Jones (Warren Township High School; Gurnee, Ill.) committed to Notre Dame on Friday, joining a class of now 10 recruits, including four who committed just this week.

Jones chose the Irish over offers from the likes of Iowa, Michigan State and Ole Miss, among others.

He is the first receiver among the 10 commitments and the seventh considered a four-star prospect. At 6-foot-5, 196 pounds, Jones should present a large target for whomever the Notre Dame quarterback is in the fall of 2018, most likely then-senior Brandon Wimbush.

Tom, Tommy or Thomas; Assistant Coach or Graduate Assistant?
Thomas Rees may need to wait a season before officially being a coach at Notre Dame. The legislation to approve a 10th assistant coach was expected to be voted on, passed and effective in April. A newly-added amendment may push the effective date to following the 2017 season. The amendment will be voted on immediately before the legislation itself is.

The delay makes sense. Most coaching hirings and firings occur in December and January. In theory, creating a one-timing hiring frenzy following spring football could leave many programs in the lurch. In practice, however, this is not anticipated.

“The majority of the FBS guys that I’ve talked with currently believe that 10th coach is going to come from within their own organization,” Todd Berry told the Associated Press. Berry is the executive director of the American Football Coaches Association and former coach at Army and Louisiana-Monroe. “Quality control, graduate assistants, analysts, or they’re planning on hiring somebody that’s out of work.”

A majority is not a unanimity, though, and that carousel will innately work to the disadvantage of the Group of 5 schools.

As for Rees, a graduate assistant can still work extensively with players. The most-pertinent difference between a graduate assistant and an assistant coach is the former cannot recruit. Given Notre Dame’s recent success on the recruiting trail—and the early commitment of class of 2018 consensus four-star quarterback Phil Jurkovec (Pine-Richland H.S.; Gibsonia, Pa.)—Rees may not be an absolute necessity in that regard this cycle.

A Kizer Appraisal
Former NFL scout Greg Gabriel took a look at former Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer this week, largely paying the draft prospect compliments.

In calling Kizer “the most talented quarterback in this draft class,” Gabriel set a high ceiling for Kizer’s spring. Part of Gabriel’s positive assessment comes from acknowledging Kizer’s responsibilities as the Irish signal-caller.

“The spread offense that Kizer played in at Notre Dame is more sophisticated than many of the spread offenses we see elsewhere at the collegiate level. The Notre Dame offense is a whole-field read scheme in which the quarterback has to go through a progression that encompasses both sides of the field. He also can change the play and/or protections at the line of scrimmage. Given all that, Kizer was asked to do more than many spread quarterbacks are asked to do.”

Gabriel also reflected on the dynamic differences for Kizer in 2015 and 2016 and what may have elicited some of his seeming stagnation.

“There was the unnecessary quarterback controversy at Notre Dame, and the offensive line wasn’t as experienced or as talented and the receivers were mostly first-year starters.”

As much as Gabriel raves about Kizer, he would be the first to tell you anything beyond individual player evaluation is a waste of air this early in the draft process. Mock drafts may be fun, but they are not much beyond that.

Take the fates of Tony Romo and Jimmy Garoppolo, for example. Few, if any, in the NFL expect them to dress for the Cowboys and Patriots, respectively, again. Where they end up could directly impact Kizer’s draft placement.

Jaylon Smith May Be Back to Form
Former Notre Dame and current Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith posted yet another encouraging video to Twitter. This one shows Smith really might be game-ready right now and, if not, almost certainly will be by the fall. Should there be any difficulty with the embedded video below, here is a link straight to it.

Rees’s return should not surprise

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The return of Tommy – er, Tom – Rees to Notre Dame as a member of Brian Kelly’s staff should not have surprised anyone, really. Kelly himself predicted it in no uncertain terms more than three years ago.

The second question following Notre Dame’s 2013 victory over Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl asked Kelly, “Specifically, what was your message to Tommy after the game?”

Kelly insisted he had not spoken individually with the outgoing senior, only to the team as a whole. With that clarification, he continued.

“He’ll keep trying to play the game as long as he can,” Kelly said. “He’s got a bright future as a graduate assistant for Brian Kelly anytime.”

Technically speaking, Rees is indeed a graduate assistant, for now. Come April, the NCAA and its Football Oversight Committee are expected to allow staffs to enlarge to 10 assistant coaches. At that point, Rees’s title as quarterbacks coach will make more sense. (The difference lies largely in recruiting. GAs cannot recruit. Assistant coaches can.)

With either title, Rees’s primary challenge will be mentoring rising junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush as he prepares to take over the Irish offense. Rees never had that level of expectation necessarily heaped upon him, but he will still understand it thanks to his varied experiences as Notre Dame’s quarterback. His former teammates saw him accept the challenges of starting, of coming off the bench and of being a second-stringer.

“He did everything you could have done as a Notre Dame quarterback and always managed to excel,” said Rees’s former teammate and offensive lineman Mike Golic, Jr. “If you have a young group of guys, I would say injecting a little shot of Tommy Rees in there is the medicine.”

In addition to understanding the innate stressors of being the Irish quarterback, Rees also understands the ones that come with running Kelly’s offense under his watchful eye. Golic often had the privilege of trying to focus on his offensive line work in practice while Kelly and Rees debated the previous rep’s read only yards behind Golic.

“Tommy wasn’t a guy who was going to back down if he thought he was right. Both of them could certainly have that heated conversation and then come back and understand that is just part of the working environment there.

“…Tommy can prepare these guys for all that. He’s going to say, ‘Listen, this is what you expect out of coach Kelly. This is where you have to understand what he’s trying to tell you, what he’s trying to get to you.’ Tommy can sort of be a translator like that.

Golic was not alone in lauding his former quarterback’s return to Notre Dame as quarterbacks coach.

 

Former teammates’ approval may not be the strictest of tests, but it is one a good number would fail. If nothing else, it is a positive indicator, though also a small one.

And yes, Golic insisted on referring to Rees as “Tommy,” ignoring the usage of “Tom” in Notre Dame’s press release.

“I get it in the sense of trying to make ‘Tom Rees’ happen as a very adult, respected coach,” Golic said. “But I’ll be damned if I ever call that kid ‘Tom Rees.’ He is ‘Tommy’ for me now and forever.”

Tommy Rees officially joins Kelly’s staff

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Notre Dame has made official what Keith Arnold first reported Jan. 2: Tommy Rees will join Brian Kelly’s staff as the Irish quarterbacks coach.

Or, to adhere to Notre Dame’s release, “Tom” Rees will join Kelly’s staff as the quarterbacks coach.

“When I finished my playing career and graduated from Notre Dame, I wanted to do two things,” Rees said in the statement. “First, I wanted to coach, and second, at some point in my career I hoped to get an opportunity to return and do it at my alma mater.”

Rees spent 2016 as an offensive assistant with the San Diego Chargers, working with coach Mike McCoy to keep afloat an offense plagued by injuries, beginning with receiver Keenan Allen’s ACL tear in the first week. Nonetheless, the Chargers finished seventh in the NFL in passing, ninth in scoring and 14th in total offense.

Rees will need that experience working with rising junior Brandon Wimbush, the only quarterback on the roster with any college game experience, though not a single start under his belt.

“I’m very excited to have Tom join our staff,” Kelly said. “He possesses an understanding of the game, and most importantly the quarterback position, that’s unique. He’s a true student of the game and great communicator that will offer immediate dividends toward guiding our quarterback room.”

Rees should not need much time to get up to speed with Kelly’s playbook or system, having operated within it in 46 games over four seasons, including 31 starts. He finished with a 23-8 record as a starter, 7,670 career yards and 61 touchdowns, highlighted by 3,257 yards and 27 touchdowns in 2013 alone. Only Rees, Brady Quinn, Jimmy Clausen and Everett Golson have ever exceeded 3,000 passing yards in a single Notre Dame season.

With this hire, Kelly completes his retooling of his coaching staff. The newcomers include:
Defensive coordinator: Mike Elko
Offensive coordinator: Chip Long
Special teams coordinator: Brian Polian
Linebackers coach: Clark Lea
Wide receivers coach: Del Alexander
Quarterbacks coach: Tom(my) Rees

Irish A-to-Z: Ian Book

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Notre Dame’s incoming freshman steps into one of the most harrowing depth charts in college football. But he also comes to South Bend prepared, a freshman season where anything is possible.

Book may be No. 4 in a four-deep that includes three of the most intriguing quarterbacks in college football. But he’s also a play away from being the team’s backup. That’s the plan heading into freshman year, with Brandon Wimbush hoping to keep a redshirt on this season after being forced into action in 2015.

A highly productive high school quarterback, Book didn’t wow any of the recruiting evaluators. But Mike Sanford took dead aim at Book and landed a quarterback he thinks can step in and be ready if needed.

 

IAN BOOK
6’0″, 190 lbs.
Freshman, No. 4, QB

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

Three-star prospect who had offers from Boise State and Washington State before Notre Dame jumped in and landed him. His previous relationship with Mike Sanford from his time in Boise made the difference.

Undersized but cerebral player who was highly prolific in high school. Named conference MVP in senior season at Oak Ridge high school and was the No. 14 overall pro-style QB according to Rivals.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

If Book is going to be a big-time college quarterback, it’ll be because he’s got a knack for the game that you don’t see from his physical skill-set. He’s undersized and a little bit slight. He’s got good wheels, but doesn’t play like a speed demon.

You don’t need an elite set of tools to be successful in Brian Kelly’s system. And while a comparison to Tommy Rees will come off as a slight, it’s a compliment—especially after hearing the staff speak confidently about Book’s ability to come in and know the system well enough to be ready to play as a freshman, if necessary.

(Book is also faster than Rees, so relax everybody.)

 

CRYSTAL BALL

Unless the sky is falling, Book is wearing a redshirt. And that’s the best thing for him—even if he’ll prepare as the emergency No. 3, a duty Wimbush was pushed into last year.

A look at Notre Dame’s depth chart and the war chest of talent accumulated at the position makes these next five years look like an uphill climb to get onto the field. But until Book steps foot on campus, all bets are off.

Remember, Tommy Rees entered Notre Dame with two other quarterbacks at his position, both rated better than him by recruiting analysts. But it was Rees that pushed past the five-star recruit already on campus for two seasons and his two classmates.

Of course, DeShone Kizer, Malik Zaire and Brandon Wimbush aren’t Dayne Crist, Andrew Hendrix and Luke Massa. But until we see Book at the college level, it’s a wait and see proposition.

But the freshman has a key role on the 2016 team. Even if everybody hopes he won’t have to do it.

 

2016’s Irish A-to-Z
Josh Adams
Josh Barajas
Alex Bars
Asmar Bilal
Hunter Bivin
Grant Blankenship
Jonathan Bonner

Notre Dame and Temple a primetime start on ABC

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Another Notre Dame road game, another primetime kickoff. With Temple ranked for the first time since 1979, the Owls will host the Irish in Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field at 8:00 p.m. ET on an ABC national broadcast.

The game is a sellout crowd, with Notre Dame drawing another large audience. As Pete Sampson pointed out, 69, 176 tickets have already been sold. Last week’s Temple game against UCF drew 31,372 fans.

Temple head coach Matt Rhule will be bringing a much different team to the game than the one that showed up to open Notre Dame’s 2013 season. The Irish jumped ahead early against the Owls with two first quarter Tommy Rees to DaVaris Daniels touchdowns, before coasting to a 28-6 win.

Rhule has also seen his star rise—the 40-year old served as Al Golden’s offensive coordinator before returning to replace Steve Addazio as the Owls’ head coach. Rhule won just two games in his first season, rallied to a 6-6 record in 2014 and has matched that win total already in 2015. He appears to be a top fit for a program like Maryland that’s already looking to replace Randy Edsall.

This year, the Owls are 6-0 on the season, including 3-0 in American conference play. They have a Top 10 statistical defense, giving up just 14.7 points a game so far this season. Temple opened the season with an eye-opening win over Penn State and has done nothing but win since.

The Owls will play at night against East Carolina this weekend before welcoming the Irish to the City of Brotherly Love on Halloween night.