Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly didn't let the team's quarterback situation become an issue as the Irish (8-4) prepare to play No. 25 Florida State (8-4) in the Champs Sports Bowl on Dec. 29 in Orlando, Fla.
When the matchup was announced Sunday, Kelly didn't hesitate to say sophomore Tommy Rees would start over sophomore Andrew Hendrix against the Seminoles and their No. 6 defense, which gives up 274.6 per game.
Kelly, who left open the possibility that a quarterback change could occur right after a 28-14 loss to Stanford in the season finale on Nov. 26, said the decision to start Rees came down to trust.
"If you really want to pin me down on one thing, the trust factor that our O-line has with Tommy, getting in the right protections," Kelly said Tuesday of sticking with Rees as the starter. "It was more of a collective thing than maybe saying, 'Why Tommy and not Andrew?' It has nothing to do with them individually as much as collectively. It was a decision that was made collectively about the whole unit.
Rees started every game but the season opener this season. He replaced senior Dayne Crist at halftime of the 23-20 loss to South Florida on Sept. 3. He threw for 2,708 yards with 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
"We've been with Tommy all year," Kelly said. "Tommy has a great rapport with Mike (Floyd) and (Former Bishop Dwenger star Tyler Eifert). Our offensive line feels really good with his communication and getting into protections. There are a lot of things you can't just undo after one game."
Hendrix will still figure into Notre Dame's game plan against Florida State, and he may be used more than during regular-season games.
Hendrix, who played the entire second half against Stanford, adds a running dimension to the quarterback spot. He gained 136 yards on 21 carries and threw for 225 yards with a touchdown and interception in four games.
"I think you also know that Andrew Hendrix can do some things that can help our football team, and we need to see him as well," Kelly said.
Kelly will not be seeing much of Crist as the Irish get ready for the bowl game. The coach said Crist did not practice with the team Tuesday and is not factoring into the Irish's bowl preparation.
"We've pretty much let Dayne operate on whatever he needs to do to get himself situated for next semester," Kelly said. "I don't see Dayne being part of what we are doing for this bowl game.
"His focus has got to be on putting together the best situation for him."
As far as who the third quarterback to play against Florida State would be if Rees and Hendrix are unable to play, Kelly implied that it wouldn't be freshman Everett Golson.
"We are going to be creative. Very creative," Kelly said.