During a Tuesday teleconference, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly twice referred to being fortunate to have two experienced quarterbacks in the wake of the news that quarterback Everett Golson, who started 11 games last season, will not be with the team for the 2013 season.
The Irish have seniors Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix along with early enrollee freshman Malik Zaire to turn to as potential replacements for Golson, who will miss this season because of academic violations.
Rees appears to be the most likely candidate to replace Golson, who threw for 2,405 yards with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions and ran for 298 yards with six touchdowns last season.
Rees is 14-4 as a starter and has played in 34 games in three seasons.
Rees has completed 63.6 percent of his passes (403 of 634) for 4,413 yards with 34 touchdowns. But he has struggled with turnovers, throwing 24 interceptions in his career and 14 when he started 12 of 13 games in 2012.
"Tommy knows exactly what the expectations are for him," Kelly said. "He was a huge part of our undefeated season. (Rees relieved Golson when he struggled in wins over Purdue and Michigan, and stepped in when Golson was injured in wins over Stanford and BYU last year).
"He's going to be part of this season as well. He knows what we expect of him on a day-to-day basis, and just like a guy who can't make tackles, he's probably not going to be on the field if you can't tackle and you are probably not going to be on the field if you throw interceptions, whether you are Tommy Rees or Malik Zaire or Everett Golson. That's pretty established within our program as to what the expectations are."
Hendrix is the only other quarterback to have played for the Irish besides Rees. The 6-2, 220-pounder has appeared in eight games, throwing for 304 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions, and running for 203 yards with a touchdown.
Zaire did make good strides in spring practice to compete for playing time, but Kelly said it was too early to predict how much the freshman can help this season.
"I think he's made an impact in that his football knowledge and acumen, the way he's picked up things in a very short amount of time, I'm very impressed with that," Kelly said. "And the way he competed in the (spring) game, (throwing for 62 yards with a touchdown and an interception). He showed a confidence and a sense of control of his game. Those are all obviously very positive things.
"Again, you've got to keep in mind that he's only been here for one semester. So though we're very encouraged and believe that he's got an opportunity to have a great future, it's really too early to tell. He has a lot of work left. The early indications, we really like what we see from this young man."