As Tom Rees and the Notre Dame coaching staff install the offense this spring, increasing the tempo is near the top of the check list.
According to Rees, a former Irish quarterback himself, moving fast and pushing the tempo can “definitely” help a young quarterback.
In his first season as a starter, Brandon Wimbush is in charge of finding that fine line between fast and out of control.
“At the same time we want to play fast, we also want the quarterback in control,” Rees said. “We don’t want him out of control and too frantic. We want everyone ready to go and he controls the tempo for us. We’re going to go at his speed and we want that speed to be fast.”
Rees, 24, had a much different style of play than the 20-year-old Wimbush, who was the No. 4 dual-threat quarterback in the class of 2015. The former four-star prospect is now a junior for the Irish, tasked with leading an offense that is now going at hyper speed.
The offense is a combination of head coach Brian Kelly’s longtime principles and the additions of new offensive coordinator Chip Long.
“We want to play fast and there are some details here and there that Coach Long does a great job of coaching up and it’s a been a great blend to work with,” Rees said. “To me it’s a very fun offense to play in. It puts a lot on the quarterback and understanding what we’re trying to do, and I would’ve loved to play in it. You still see the same structure of the offense, and now Coach Long comes in and adds his mix into it.”
Rees played under two offensive coordinators at Notre Dame: Charley Molnar (2010-11) and Chuck Martin (2012-13). Neither coordinators pushed the tempo like Long wants to do, and the offense will be tailored to what the physically skilled Wimbush excels at.
“When I was here we went through a lot of different phases of what we were doing,” Rees said. “A lot of it was personnel based. Obviously I wasn’t running zone read. The offense conceptually it’s still Coach Kelly and you still see the aspects there, but Coach Long has brought a lot of his stuff to what we’re doing.”
Last month, Long detailed how he’ll go about pushing the tempo.
“I’m not going to go fast and lose us a game,” Long said. “The situation dictates it. I have the ability to slow it down without the kids knowing we’re trying to do that with shifts, motions, different cadences and what not. I can dictate that. I can get us going even faster, so we have that in the offense. I never want to have a case where they think I’m trying to slow it down so we get them out of their rhythm and confuse them.”
Thus far, the 6-foot-1, 226-pound Wimbush has looked like a natural in the offense.
“Especially athletically and with defenses scrambling, if they make one mistake and we have a pull-read or something, he can take off and before you know it he’s down the field,” Rees said of Wimbush. “With his skillset being able to go fast and being able to execute the offense, it’s definitely to our advantage.
“He’s done a great job understanding what we’re trying to do when we go fast. Getting up to the line, making the right calls, and when there’s times he needs to take a step back, he’s done that. We want him to get to a point where we don’t need to, but he’s going to play at his tempo.”
• Talk about it inside Rockne’s Roundtable
• Subscribe to our podcast on iTunes
• Learn more about our print and digital publication, Blue & Gold Illustrated.
• Like us on Facebook.