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COLUMN

Notre Dame quarterback is going to have little margin for error

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For more on college football, follow Tom Davis via Twitter at www.twitter.com/Tom101010

Irish coach indicates he'll look elsewhere if Rees is mistake prone

Saturday, August 3, 2013 - 4:49 am

SOUTH BEND – Every quarterback in the country has to learn how to perform under duress and Notre Dame senior Tommy Rees will be no different throughout the 2013 season. After listening to fourth-year Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly discuss his quarterback situation on Friday, it was pretty clear that Rees will be expected to play this season while on a short leash.

Kelly met with the media for the first time at the Guglielmino Athletics Complex, and if there was a point of emphasis regarding the quarterback situation; it was that Rees won't have a lot of leeway with the coach if he shows the slightest bit of ineffectiveness.

“I didn't name him the starter for all 13 games,” Kelly said of Rees. “I named him the starter for Temple.”

How's that for a confidence boost? It's going to be a real short leash.

Rees will apparently start the season-opening game against the Owls (Aug. 31 at 3:30 p.m., NBC), but after an initial series of plays? All bets are off on predicting how this season will go for Rees. His final season at Notre Dame Stadium very well may be a series by series evaluation.

Rees lost the starting job a year ago in training camp on his own merit. He regained the job by default when Everett Golson was kicked out of school this past spring. That isn't necessarily the most inspiring way to take back the position, but Kelly believes that Rees has the potential to guide this team.

“He was the most experienced,” Kelly said of the three candidates. “He's won. He obviously knows our offense very well. He's a senior (and) well respected. He has all the things.”

That's stretching it a bit. Rees doesn't have “all the things” or he wouldn't have lost the job a year ago. And now he has to play better than he ever has knowing full well that Kelly has other options and other ideas.

“Well, you know my philosophy has been our number two (quarterback) gets much more work than most twos in the country,” Kelly said. “It's proven that way because I have a tendency to play more than one quarterback.”

It could be a really, really short leash for Rees.

If Rees has not gotten over his two-year propensity for throwing interceptions, Kelly will turn to senior Andrew Hendrix, but what he said his plans are for freshman Malik Zaire tells everyone that Kelly is intrigued by what the youngster can do – this year.

“I would say that Andrew is going to get a lot of reps,” Kelly explained. “Tommy needs a lot of work, too, because he didn't get many last year. You'll see a break there, whether it's 6 4 or 7 3 in terms of numbers between one and two. We will definitely get Malik in the mix as well.”

That last comment is interesting because typically, a true freshman spends his initial year on campus running the scout team offense. Golson did two years ago, while former Irish player Gunner Kiel did the same last fall before transferring to Cincinnati. However, Zaire, who enrolled in January and went through spring football, has already earned a promotion from that gig, according to the coach.

“We want to keep him with us,” Kelly said of Zaire. “When I say 'us,' we want to keep him with the starters. That's important. He needs to get that first-hand knowledge of the offense and defense, see the college game. It's very important for us to keep him.”

“It's very important” because obviously Kelly doesn't trust Rees, really deep-down trust, to guide the Irish offense effectively for 13 games.

It could be a really, really, really short leash for Rees.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Tom Davis at tdavis@news-sentinel.com.