Chicago Colleges: 2012 ND spring QB

The elder statesman: Tommy Rees

March, 26, 2012
3/26/12
12:32
PM CT
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Late in Notre Dame's first full-pads practice of the spring Saturday, Tommy Rees took a snap, broke off and ran.

And ran. And ran some more.

Rees' red jersey kept him from getting hit on his roughly 40-yard burst down the right sideline, which ended with him being "forced" out of bounds. Nonetheless, the sight turned the heads of many, considering Rees gained just 39 rushing yards in all of 2011 and actually netted negative-56 rushing yards after accounting for sacks.

So, was that a glimpse of the new Rees?

[+] EnlargeTommy Rees
Jeanine Leech/Icon SMIIncumbent starter Tommy Rees knows he will need to work this spring to keep his job.
"I don't know," the junior cracked, adding, "It opened up pretty well for me. I'm gonna be honest, I didn't expect to get that far down the field. I was a little tired at the end of it."

Yes, Rees knows he needs to make more plays by running. Or, at the very least, extend more plays by running.

And no, he does not have a problem with the fact that his 16 career starts -- 16 more than any other quarterback on the roster -- are not being catered to this spring, which began with all four signal-callers starting from Page 1 of the playbook.

"If you hand the full playbook to those guys they'd be spinning, so I understand where they're coming from," Rees said. "It also can give me an advantage because I've run it so much that I should be the most comfortable with it. I should be the guy that understands what we're putting in.

"I think it's probably the right way to do it, to help everyone out, even the receivers, running backs learning new positions, just trying to get the whole offense clicking before we put in so much and guys' heads would spin, and now by scaling back we can execute things even better."

Rees took over for Dayne Crist midway through 2010 and again after the first half of the 2011 opener, compiling a 12-4 record as a starter while completing better than 64 percent of his passes for 3,977 yards and 32 touchdowns.

But he has also had his share of miscues, throwing 22 interceptions over the course of those two seasons. Experience and better execution should help with curbing such gaffes, he said.

"I think you get a little bit of both: There's things you learn from and move past, and there's things that you look back on and think, why would I ever do that?" Rees said. "And those are just the mistakes you've got to erase. When a play turns bad you can't make it worse, and you've got to make the smart play. If that's throwing it away or just scrambling for a yard to get out of bounds -- just making the smart play, not trying to force something that's not there."

Rees knows credentials alone will not help him fend off Andrew Hendrix, Everett Golson and Gunner Kiel, and said the deficiencies from last season have allowed him to enter the four-man race with the right mindset.

"'You gotta beat me out' -- that's his mentality and that should be his mentality," offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Chuck Martin said of Rees. "And Hendrix should have a different mentality. Hendrix's mentality is, 'I'm gonna beat…' you know?

"I think [Tommy's] mentality is: 'Was I a Heisman Trophy winner? Have I locked the vault shut and I'm the guy? Maybe not. But I know I'm ahead of these guys and I'm gonna stay ahead of these guys. And there's things I need to work on to improve.' And he's not worried about the competition. The beautiful thing is him and Dayne were great friends, and still are great friends. And the beauty of the kids you recruit at Notre Dame, Andrew and him are good friends, and Everett and Andrew are good friends, and Gunner's becoming. So it's weird because they are all competitive kids, but it's not, 'Well, I'm gonna steal his playbook so I can win the job.' It's just a different animal. That's the great thing about coaching here. It doesn't get any funner than coaching at Notre Dame."

The promising sidekick: Andrew Hendrix

March, 26, 2012
3/26/12
12:32
PM CT
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Hey, Andrew Hendrix was one of four scholarship quarterbacks last spring, too. It's just that, in his first spring, following a freshman season he redshirted in, well ...

"Last spring I was kind of like a chicken with its head cut off at times, just running around," Hendrix said. "I didn't really understand how our offense worked or even an offense worked. I wasn't as comfortable reading defenses as I am now."

And now?

"And now it's really exciting for me as things are falling into place for me as I see it," he said. "The game's slowing down for me and it makes it a lot easier, a lot less stressful. The game's a lot more fun when you're out there and you know what you're doing, so we're just trying to help Gunner [Kiel] and Everett [Golson], Tommy [Rees] and I. The more we all understand the game, the more fun it is for all of us."

[+] EnlargeAndrew Hendrix
Brian Spurlock/US PresswireNotre Dame QB Andrew Hendrix has demonstrated his mobility during his limited playing time.
Plays like the 78-yard dash Hendrix showed off last year in his first college game, late in Notre Dame's Week 6 rout of Air Force, proved plenty of fun for the then-sophomore. Plays like the fourth-quarter interception in a tight Champs Sports Bowl loss to Florida State, meanwhile, did not.

Hendrix saw more reps in the lead-up to the bowl game following the departure of Dayne Crist, along with an impressive relief outing after Rees struggled early in the regular-season finale loss at Stanford. But Hendrix started only one series against the Seminoles, and he finished the night with an underwhelming line of 3-for-8 passing for 24 yards.

"It's hard to say," Hendrix said when asked if he missed seizing an opportunity late in 2011. "Obviously I got more reps with the Dayne situation last year. I think that's when my development really started last year. So I think I've just been trying to build on my reps last year. In my mind maybe I gained confidence, I think, not to say that's what the real situation was. But right now I'm extremely confident. Any of the four quarterbacks are — you have to be in order to compete. So right now we're just all working to get better, and we'll see what happens later."

Hendrix, who appeared in five games last season, did add 26 yards on four carries in the loss, and he finished with 162 rushing yards and a score on 25 carries, bringing a dimension to the position that had not previously been seen in Brian Kelly's two years coaching the Irish.

The Cincinnati native said the mobility is a nice commodity, but understanding the offense and making quick decisions will be among the first priorities.

Putting a bad play behind him will be another step for Hendrix, Chuck Martin said, illustrating an exchange between the two during Notre Dame's first spring practice.

"A bad play happened. Andrew got that little body language that he gets when things go bad because he cares so much and he practices so hard," Martin, the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, recalled. "I'm like, 'Here's the first thing we got to correct: When it goes bad, Andrew, you got to turn around like you're Brett Favre. Because even the defensive guys look at you.

"'Hey, you threw the ball bad. Who cares? Everybody makes mistakes.'"

Whoever makes the least mistakes will likely be under center for the Sept. 1 opener in Dublin, Ireland, and the self-critical Hendrix knows forgetting his will go a long way in making progress.

"I always said that I'm my toughest critic — I'm always in competition with myself," Hendrix said. "So whether it's five guys or just me or two guys, I'm always competing with myself, whether I can do it better the next time. So that's the way I think about it. I'm not competing with anybody else but myself. I can only be the best quarterback I can be, so at the end of the day I can do that. I can't control what Tommy does, what Coach Kelly does, so as long as I can be the best me, that's all I can do."

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