Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly won’t even let the hint of possibly looking at a new starting quarterback go by without defending Tommy Rees.
The second-year Irish coach misinterpreted a question about wanting to build quarterback depth by playing others in game situations during his Sunday teleconference that brought about a strong defense of Rees as the starter.
“Right now, Tommy is 6-1 as a starter,” Kelly said. “He’s obviously not a finished product; nobody is. He’ll continue to get better and better and we’ll continue to help him in terms of play calling and getting him in the right kind of situation so he can be successful.
“But no, we’re not in a situation right now where we need to think about what other quarterbacks are going to get in the game. Tommy is the starter.”
Rees’ turnovers have led some to wonder why Dayne Crist, who started the season opener against South Florida but was replaced at halftime, or even freshman Everett Golson have not been given a chance to run the offense.
Rees committed two turnovers in Saturday’s 15-12 win at Pittsburgh, bringing his turnover total to nine. That is more turnovers than 88 teams have committed this season.
But the sophomore also redeemed himself with a perfect passing drive in the fourth quarter that led to the win over the Panthers.
Rees completed 8 of 8 passes for 74 yards and connected with former Bishop Dwenger standout Tyler Eifert on the winning 6-yard touchdown pass and the ensuing two-point conversion with 6:48 to play Saturday.
“He’s just got the right demeanor to be able to go out there in late games on the road and put it together when we need to,” Kelly said of Rees, who completed 24 of 41 passes for 216 yards with a touchdown, an interception and lost fumble against Pittsburgh.
While Rees is firmly entrenched at quarterback, Kelly is looking to bring other players into the mix, especially freshmen.
While not getting into specific players or positions, Kelly said there are some first-year players that could receive more playing time soon.
“It’s just a matter of time,” Kelly said.
Kelly also took time to look back at the season’s first month that has left the Irish 2-2 entering Saturday’s 8 p.m. game at Purdue.
“Obviously the Michigan game (a 35-31 loss) is going to be one that we relive over and over and over. That’s not going to go away,” Kelly said. “But getting back-to-back wins (over Michigan State and Pittsburgh), getting the good road win, I think our guys feel good about themselves and know that, you know, it takes a strong will to win games late, and especially on the road.
“So I think through the first four games, our kids understand what it takes to win, and they know if they play well they are capable of winning each game they play.”