Notre Dame Football: Why Tommy Rees Will Surprise in 2012
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly struggled to locate a go-to signal-caller during his first season in South Bend in 2010.
However, last year he found his man in quarterback Tommy Rees.
Rees finished a solid 2011 sophomore campaign with more than 2,800 yards passing, in addition to 20 touchdown passes and a quarterback rating of 133.4.
Despite leading the Irish to an eight-win season, there are major questions surrounding Rees' incumbency as the starting quarterback.
Rees will be suspended for the season-opener against Navy, after pleading guilty to misdemeanor resisting law enforcement and illegal consumption of alcohol by a minor during an arrest in May, according to espn.com.
While this may not greatly affect the chances of Rees putting together an impressive season in 2012, the remaining talent on the quarterback depth chart may do the trick.
Redshirt freshman Everett Golson is drawing a great deal of hype, taking first team reps during offensive drills in practice according to Matt Fortuna's article on espn.com. A 2009 South Carolina all-state selection by the Associated Press, Golson is a dual-threat quarterback who could bring an added dimension to the Notre Dame offense.
Nevertheless, there is good reason to believe Rees can take his game to new heights this season.
Here are three reasons Rees will surprise in 2012.
Familiarity with Kelly's System
As a quarterback, familiarity with the system goes hand-in-hand with success on the football field.
This will be Rees' third year playing in Kelly's offense, giving reason to believe that Rees will make great strides in 2012.
Take former Cincinnati Bearcats quarterback Tony Pike, for example.
Like Rees, Pike played sparingly in his first action at quarterback under Kelly in 2007 before taking the reins in 2008. Pike's 2008 campaign was very good, leading the Bearcats to an 11-3 record, while throwing for more than 2,400 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Pike's second full season as a starter, his senior year, produced a seismic leap, as he increased his passing yards, threw for 29 touchdowns and decreased his interception total by nearly 50 percent.
While the two quarterbacks' skill-sets are different, Pike is proof that system experience can be a major factor.
Golson may be a more talented runner, but growing pains with the quirks of the offense make it seem pointless for Kelly to go with him for the long term.
Look for Rees to improve upon his touchdown/interception ratio, given an opportunity.
Chemistry with the Major Targets
Notre Dame's all-time leading receiver Michael Floyd will now be playing on Sundays, but there is still a great deal of returning talent on the offensive side of the ball.
The Irish return eight starters, according to Phil Steele, on an offense that averaged more than 30 points per game last season.
While Floyd's absence will surely hurt, Rees will still have big playmakers to deliver the football to this fall.
Tight end Tyler Eifert, a 2012 Mackey Award candidate, was a key target for Rees in 2011, catching 63 passes for more than 800 yards and five touchdowns. Without Floyd on the outside, Rees will surely look for Eifert more often in 2012, as their chemistry together should pay big dividends.
The Irish also return standout running back Cierre Wood, who led the team with more than 1,100 yards rushing, in addition to nine rushing touchdowns.
Rees' comfort with his skill players is another reason to expect improved performances from the junior quarterback this season.
Players all around the country will tell you, "the game slows down the more you play."
This leads to improved decision-making, an increased level of confidence and more poise—all of which are beneficial enhancements for a quarterback.
Rees can expect some of these improvements after starting all 13 games last season.
Say what you want about other factors, but this is the ultimate reason why Rees should be the Irish's quarterback instead of Golson for the 2012 season.
With home games against Michigan and Stanford, in addition to away matchups with Michigan State, Oklahoma and USC, Kelly will need his quarterback to execute under pressure against talented defenses, which is difficult for a freshman to handle.
Rees has already been through it all, which brings about an expectation that he will do even better this time around.
Lacking big-time arm strength, Rees is not one of the flashier quarterbacks in college football, but he knows how to get the job done.
Don't sleep on Rees to do big things for the Irish in 2012.