Freshman Tommy Rees has one more chance to change where he stands among Notre Dame quarterbacks for next season when he makes his fourth career start today when the Irish (7-5) play Miami (7-5) in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas.
Rees took over as the starter when Dayne Crist suffered a season-ending knee injury in a 28-27 loss to Tulsa on Oct. 30.
Rees went 3-0 as a starter and threw for 905 yards with 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions in the regular season.
How Rees performs today against the Hurricanes' No. 2-ranked pass defense will go a long way in shaping the 2011 quarterback battle.
"I think every game that he starts, every game that he plays against quality opposition obviously heightens his résumé as it relates to being the No. 1 quarterback," coach Brian Kelly said Thursday. "So another starting game against a quality opponent obviously strengthens his case – on paper, on paper – that, 'I'm the No. 1.' Now, we're going to let all of those guys compete it out, but there's no question that another start strengthens his résumé to be that No. 1."
Notre Dame will enter next year in a very different quarterback situation from when Kelly first arrived.
Entering this year's spring practice, Crist was the only scholarship quarterback with experience. He was backed up by Nate Montana, a junior college transfer, and Rees, who enrolled early.
Then in the fall, freshman Andrew Hendrix and Luke Massa joined the group, but Crist was the starter by default.
Going into next year's spring practices and season, the Irish have four scholarship quarterbacks who have been with the team for at least a year, and Everett Golson – a dual-threat QB who has orally committed to play for Notre Dame and expects to enroll early – will also be in the mix.
"We've gone a 180 there, we won't be in a situation like we were last spring, where we had one scholarship quarterback and Tommy being just there," Kelly said of the quarterback competition for 2011. "Now you're going to have four or five scholarship quarterbacks. It's going to be a whole different evaluation process."
Quarterback will not be the only position that will change for 2011 for reasons other than senior starters graduating, Kelly said.
"It is the life of transitioning in Year 1," Kelly said. "In Year 1, you're learning about your players, they're learning about you. You've got players in positions that may not be there. It is the foundation of building a consistent winner, is that you're finding out where those pieces fall.
"Yeah, there will be some changes amongst the 22 (starters), other than the guys obviously that are graduating, but amongst that 22, there will be changes and that's just natural in the development of your program."
Read more about Rees in today's Journal Gazette or online at www.journalgazette.net.
Also, follow Irish Insights on Twitter at twitter.com/JGIrishInsights.