Notre Dame has a new offensive coordinator, and it shouldn't take him long at all to familiarize himself with the position.
Tommy Rees, the 27-year-old former Fighting Irish quarterback, becomes one of head coach Brian Kelly's top lieutenants after previously serving as the team's quarterbacks coach since 2017.
It's a big step up for Rees. After leading Notre Dame on the field from 2010-2013, the California native spent one season in the NFL with Washington before returning to college as a graduate assistant at Northwestern in 2015.
Five years later, he's overseeing the offense at one of college football's most elite programs.
Rees replaces Chip Long, who served as offensive coordinator for three seasons before the school parted ways with him after the 2019 campaign. Promoting the quarterbacks coach actually makes plenty of sense here. Notre Dame's starting QB, Ian Book, announced earlier this offseason that he would be returning to South Bend for his senior year.
Considering the strong rapport between Book and Rees—to say nothing of both understanding the expectations that come with being a Notre Dame quarterback—it should prove for a relatively smooth transition for the two. Book is 20-3 as a starter with Rees as his position coach.
“After an extensive national search, I’m proud to name Tom Rees our next offensive coordinator,” Kelly said in a statement. “Tom’s ability to connect with our players and staff and accepting and embracing the incredible opportunity in being the offensive coordinator at Notre Dame made him the right choice. While Tom’s leadership ability and knowledge of the game was evident, it was his humble approach to his own development and desire to continue to grow and learn that were also key factors that set him apart in a talented pool of candidates.”
The Fighting Irish had a good-not-great season on offense in 2019, ranking 49th nationally in passing yards (252.2 per game), 45th in rushing yards (179 per game) and 118th in scoring (36.8 points per game). Still, Notre Dame went 11-2 on the year with losses at No. 3 Georgia and at No. 19 Michigan. Unfortunately for Long, greatness is the standard for Notre Dame coaches. Anything less than a championship-caliber season in South Bend demands change. Long was an unavoidable sacrifice.
Rees' hiring should be received rather well by fans of the Irish. In 30 starts over four years, Rees passed for 7,351 yards, 61 touchdowns and 37 interceptions, helping Notre Dame reach the BCS title game in 2012 where it lost to Alabama.
His job as a coach is the same as it was when he played: mold Notre Dame into a title contender.