It took some detective work, but we have confirmation that Tommy Rees was named Notre Dame's starting quarterback by Brian Kelly.
This shouldn't have become a mini-controversy, considering Rees is the only logical choice to be named starter in June following Everett Golson's suspension. But Kelly tried denying he named Rees the starter, and it forced some CSI work by reporters to confirm what he said.
NBC Sports reported the story late last night, citing Grand Rapids Press statements, but earlier today Notre Dame told Rivals the story was inaccurate. The Chicago Tribune verified Kelly’s exact quote:
"Everett won't be with us in the fall, so I've always moved forward," Kelly said. "I don't live in the past, I don’t spent too much time in the future, I live in the present. And the present is, I've got Tommy Rees, who was a starter for us, established player, and he’ll be our starter. And we think that Andrew Hendrix and Malik Zaire are guys that can contribute. But Tommy will be our starter."
The Tribune included this: "The Tribune verified Kelly's statement via an audio clip of the question-and-answer sent by the Grand Rapids Press."
Based on the evidence, guess we can consider the case closed.
Last week Kelly said all three quarterbacks would have a chance to compete as starter, but you can understand his desire to have a little bit of stability at the position. Golson was ruled academically ineligible for the fall semester, a problem compounded by the fact that five-star recruit Gunner Kiel had transferred to Cincinnati earlier in the fall because Golson’s stranglehold on the starting gig was so strong. That left Rees as the only returning quarterback on the roster with starting experience, perhaps making Kelly’s choice relatively easy – even if he wanted to keep that a secret for whatever reason.
Rees' career has reached some incredible highs and staggering lows. Thrown into the fire as a true freshman in 2010, Rees started and won the final four games of the season, going 4-0. (Rees’ first five career starts came in Notre Dame Stadium, Yankee Stadium, the Los Angeles Coliseum, the Sun Bowl and the Big House. Not bad.) The following summer Dayne Crist was named the starter, but Rees came on in relief in the season opener against South Florida and started the rest of the season, going 8-4.
The problem for Irish fans was Rees’ propensity for turnovers, including some at the very worst moments. Rees was suspended for the 2012 opener following an altercation with the South Bend police, opening the door for Golson to start. But Rees was there for Kelly again, helping to guide the Irish to their 12-0 regular season. He started in a victory against BYU and closed out dramatic wins against Purdue, Michigan and Stanford.
It seems like a safe bet that either freshman Malik Zaire or senior Andrew Hendrix (or perhaps both) will be worked into the offense as the season goes on, as Rees’ lack of mobility severely limits him in the run game. He also won’t be able to keep plays alive with his feet like Golson, making things slightly easier on the opposing defensive line. But he brings a lot of experience, 18 career starts and a mastery of Kelly and offensive coordinator Chuck Martin’s playbook.
And he's the starter, for now. The audio clip of Kelly says so, after all.