Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly quickly put any quarterback controversy speculation to rest a little less than an hour after the announcement Sunday that the Irish (8-4) would play No. 25 Florida State (8-4) in the Champs Sports Bowl.
Without skipping a beat, Kelly declared sophomore Tommy Rees would start against the Seminoles when the bowl game kicks off at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 29.
"Tommy is our starter, he's been our starter the whole year, and he'll be that starter against Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl," Kelly said during a teleconference.
Rees, who is 12-3 as a starter, replaced senior Dayne Crist at halftime of the season opener and started the next 11 games this year. He threw for 2,708 yards with 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
Notre Dame appeared to be on the brink of making another quarterback change after the season finale. Sophomore Andrew Hendrix, who was used sparingly as a change-of-pace QB this season, played the second half over Rees in the loss to Stanford.
Hendrix, who is a better running option than Rees, will play a role against the Seminoles, and he will be more involved in practice with Crist's status with the team up in the air after the quarterback was granted his release.
"He's gonna have to get a lot more, as you know, because there's only two," Kelly said of Hendrix. "Dayne and I will have further conversations, but the way we left it is he's got a lot of work left to do working on his transfer, so he's not gonna be able to put the time in necessarily. So Andrew's gonna have to get a lot of that work because he's got to go in there and play. So his role definitely will increase in practice."
Crist graduates at the end of the month and will take advantage of the NCAA exemption that allows players to transfer and not sit out a year if they have already earned their degree. As for what he will do with the Irish in the weeks leading up to the trip to Orlando, Fla., Kelly wasn't certain Sunday.
"That's yet to be determined. We're not really sure," Kelly said. "We've given him a release, and he's going to have to pursue some of those things. So right now, it's pretty much up in the air, and I've got to focus on the guys that are going to be here."
Notre Dame will have one player back for the bowl game. Freshman defensive end Stephon Tuitt, who missed the last two games because of illness, will play in the bowl game, Kelly said.
Kelly was also certain of the role Theo Riddick will play against Florida State. The junior will be a running back against the Seminoles' No. 2-ranked run defense, which gives up 81.8 yards per game.
Riddick was moved from running back to slot receiver when Kelly arrived two years ago, but he moved back to the backfield after Jonas Gray was lost for the season with a knee injury in a win over Boston College.
"He's got some great flexibility where he can play in the slot and do some other things. But his primary focus will be at running back."