The No. 24 (per USA Today's Coaches Poll) Notre Dame Fighting Irish will attempt to make their third consecutive bowl game in 2012, but they will be doing it with Andrew Hendrix under center instead on Tommy Rees.
Rees would’ve been the starting quarterback for the Fighting Irish in Week 1 against Navy in Ireland if he never got arrested in May. Instead, he’ll be watching from the sidelines—or at home—since Notre Dame decided to suspend him for the season opener.
Rees was a solid starting QB in his sophomore season last year, throwing for 2,871 yards and 20 touchdowns. His completion percentage improved by four percent compared to his freshman season and he definitely looked more comfortable running the offense.
He and former receiver Michael Floyd led Notre Dame to the Champs Sports Bowl, but eventually fell to Florida State, 18-14.
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has yet to announce who will replace Rees in Ireland, but Andrew Hendrix is a safe bet.
Hendrix is joined by Everett Golson, Gunner Kiel and Charlie Fiessinger as the other quarterbacks on the official Notre Dame roster, but only Hendrix has any experience.
Hendrix played in five games for Notre Dame last season, including its bowl game, where he replaced Rees. On the year, he was 18-for-37 passing with 249 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Those aren’t great numbers, but they could easily be improved with consistent playing time that will come in 2012.
Despite the experienced Hendrix, ESPN’s Matt Fortuna believes that Golson will end up taking the spot start against Navy. Fortuna writes that Golson has from now until September 1 to prove that he’s the better option and that his dual-threat ability could be what gives him an edge.
ESPN’s Joe Tessitore and Brian Griese both acknowledge that Golson is a good option, but that Hendrix has the upper hand. They note that Kelly is going to look for a QB who won’t turn the ball over, since Rees was notorious for throwing picks and putting the ball on the ground from time to time as well.
In order for Hendrix to win the Week 1 job, he needs to prove how consistent he can be. Every pass needs to be accurate and every pitch on an option play needs to be there in time. There can’t be any lapses in judgment. He needs to look and be confident running the Notre Dame offense.
For Hendrix to win the starting job once Rees returns in Week 2, he has to have a good game against Navy and lead the Fighting Irish to a victory—and not a nail-biter, either. Throwing for around 250 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions could convince Kelly to give him the ball against Purdue in Week 2.
Consistency is the answer to Notre Dame winning football games in 2012 and Andrew Hendrix will be the quarterback leading them to victory.