Tommy Rees' Turnovers Show Malik Zaire Deserves Chance as Notre Dame Starting QB

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistSeptember 28, 2013

ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 07: Tommy Rees #11 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish gets ready to take on the Wolverines at Michigan Stadium on September 7, 2013 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Tommy Rees is known for his inconsistency, and the bad side of his erratic play came out against Oklahoma.

The Notre Dame quarterback threw three interceptions in the first half, each leading to a touchdown by the opposing team. Obviously, this is not a good way to win a game against a quality opponent, and the Fighting Irish fell 35-21 at home.

On the third play of the game, Rees was hit while throwing, and the ball went right into the hands of Corey Nelson, who ran the interception back for a touchdown.

The senior then threw another pick on the very next offensive play, bringing plenty of criticism from a number of observers, including Matt Hinton of Football Outsiders:

A third interception before halftime brought on even more doubt, especially after seeing this statistic courtesy of Matt Fortuna of ESPN:

He finished the game by completing only nine of his 24 attempts for 104 yards with two touchdowns and the three interceptions. 

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While Rees has done a relatively good job of avoiding turnovers this season, this has been the story for most of his career. He had 14 interceptions in his sophomore year, which was the last time he was a full-time starter for the Fighting Irish.

This season, the quarterback has three games without an interception, all of them wins. Unfortunately, interceptions in big matchups has doomed this squad.

As a result, it is time for Notre Dame to make a change at quarterback and put Malik Zaire in for the rest of the season.

The freshman star was one of the best in his recruiting class, and he has the playmaking ability that Everett Golson displayed when leading Notre Dame to the national championship game a year ago. While he might make some mistakes, Zaire can at least make up for them with big plays.

And any miscues he does commit will be the growing pains he must endure to gain the experience necessary to become a better player. On the other hand, Rees clearly is the same quarterback he was earlier in his Irish career.

The good news is that Zaire has been preparing to be a part of the offense all season. Instead of putting him on the scout team, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly decided to keep him with the first team. According to JJ Stankevitz of CSN Chicago, the head coach had this to say about Zaire over the summer:

We want to keep him with us. That's important. He needs to get that firsthand knowledge of the offense and defense, see the college game. It's very important for us to keep him.


Kelly obviously thinks highly of Zaire and wanted to make sure he would be ready to step in if needed. At this point, he is needed.

Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer is one person who thinks change will happen soon:

Notre Dame is a team that expects to compete at a high level every season. Keeping Rees in the lineup does little to help them accomplish that goal.

While the coaching staff can trust senior Andrew Hendrix to fill in, he does not possess the upside of Zaire, who could develop in a star during the next couple of seasons.

Based on Rees' latest performance, it seems as though the Irish have nothing to lose.

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