Notre Dame's biggest question mark heading into the 2012 season received a bit of clarity on Tuesday afternoon when Director of Football Media Relations Brian Hardin announced that junior quarterback Tommy Rees and senior linebacker Carlo Calabrese would be suspended for the team's season opener against Navy in Ireland on Sept. 1.
The pair had been arrested in the early morning of May 3 for an incident at an off-campus party in South Bend. Rees pleaded guilty last week to resisting law enforcement and illegal alcohol consumption, both misdemeanors. Calabrese was charged with intimidation.
"Our players understand that it's a privilege to be associated with the University of Notre Dame and its football program, but with that comes great responsibility," said head coach Brian Kelly. "Carlo and Tommy put themselves in a situation that when given a choice between two distinct paths, they responded with a set of poor decisions."
Rees has started 16 of the past 17 games for the Fighting Irish, going 12-4 in those starts. His 14 interceptions last year drew the ire of Kelly and many Notre Dame fans in a disappointing 8-5 season. The Chicago-area native is expected to compete for the starting job this fall with fellow junior Andrew Hendrix and sophomore Everett Golson.
With true freshman Gunner Kiel a near certainty to redshirt, that means either Hendrix or Golson will make their first career start at Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Sept. 1.
Hendrix played sparingly last season, with most of his action coming in the second half of the regular season finale, a 28-14 loss to Stanford. He completed just 18 of his 37 passes, throwing one touchdown and two interceptions, one of them which set up Florida State's game-winning touchdown in the Champs Sports Bowl. Golson did not see any action in the 2011 season.
Calabrese shared the Will linebacker role last season with Dan Fox and was again in a battle with Fox during the spring for that position. The suspension will likely hurt his chances to see the majority of snaps at Will this season.
Neither Rees nor Calabrese will make the trip to Ireland, instead remaining in South Bend. Notre Dame's second game is at home on Sept. 8 against Purdue.
After star wide receiver Michael Floyd did not miss any games last season following a DUI in the spring, the suspensions may come as a bit of a surprise to some, given that Floyd had had previous alcohol-related incidents. Floyd missed all of spring practice, while Rees' and Calabrese's arrests did not occur until after the conclusion of this year's spring drills.
While Kelly will have to answer questions about handling the incidents differently, the bigger concern is how the absences, particularly Rees', will affect the team not only against Navy but for the remainder of the season. Should Golson win the starting job, he will become the first Notre Dame quarterback to start a game without ever previously having taken a snap since Demetrius Jones in 2007.
Notre Dame opens fall camp on Saturday. Kelly will address the media on Friday.