Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Challenges remain for both quarterbacks
By Matt Fortuna
Tommy Rees, believe it or not, has not been the most popular man on social media this week. Feel free to search for yourself, and don't be surprised to see a choice word -- or 100 -- that would not be welcome in Sunday church.
Rees and his coach, Brian Kelly, are probably aware, too. They know it comes with the territory of the Notre Dame starting quarterback position, a position that is still the senior's, seemingly for the foreseeable future, something that Kelly re-iterated Tuesday when asked if back-up Andrew Hendrix should focus on his complementary role or on challenging Rees for top spot on the depth chart.
Senior Tommy Rees has thrown for 10 touchdowns and five interceptions for the Fighting Irish this season.
"I don't know that you can go into the game and say, 'Well, I'm just happy with a half-dozen snaps,' " Kelly said. "I hope that, and the way we presented it to Andrew is, 'Look, you've got to help us win. You've got to help us win football games.' So his mindset has to be, 'Look, I want to keep adding more to my plate. I want more and more.'
"But he's got to be more effective than he was on Saturday. He can't go in there and we get two false start penalties. We can't miss a wide-open receiver. We've got to do a better job on our zone read."
Hendrix misfired on his only pass attempt, and he tallied 10 rushing yards on five carries. The redshirt junior has officially played in four of five games this year, but Saturday marked his first extended action since taking over for the final two drives of the Irish's season-opening win over Temple.
The 6-foot-1.5, 226-pound Hendrix's size, speed and strength have made him an ideal option to run zone-read packages. His status as the No. 2 quarterback has made him one of the Irish's most popular players, at least outside the program.
That status will remain the same, however, unless Hendrix plays better.
"If he's going to get more on his plate, he's got to be more productive, and we need him to be more productive," Kelly said, adding, "We've got to get him to be more effective when he goes in the game, because he's going to go back in the game on Saturday, and he's got to be more effective in that role and then let's look to add on to that, and then maybe get to your initial question of, 'Hey, you know what, I'm going to push Tommy Rees as the starter.' "
Rees completed 9 of 24 throws Saturday for 124 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions -- all of which occurred in the first half, and all of which led to Oklahoma touchdowns. He has completed just 39.6 of his passes over the last two games for 266 yards, this after eclipsing the 300-yard mark in each of his first three contests.
Rees is no stranger to criticism, and his public demeanor has remained consistent, win or lose, a trait Kelly needs in his signal-caller during tough times.
"Look, if you're the starting quarterback at Notre Dame and you can't handle those things that are inevitably going to come your way after a loss, then you can't be the quarterback at Notre Dame," Kelly said. "It comes with the business of being the quarterback at Notre Dame. You have to avoid the noise, when it's good and when it's bad. And that's just the nature of it. It comes with being the quarterback at Notre Dame."