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  • Tommy Boy

    by SEE

    tommy rees(The Rock Report) – When Dayne Crist went down in the 2010 game against Tulsa, Tommy Rees, a true freshmen (ranked 31st by Rivals and 64th by Scout), was thrust into the game.  Still sporting adolescent acne, Rees responded by throwing for four touchdowns and 334 yards.  Most fans remember the interception throw that ended the game, but many forget that Rees engineered what could have been a game winning drive in his first start at a point in most quarterback’s careers where they were still figuring out if their helmets were the right size.

    Despite losing the game, Rees proceeded to help the Irish win out, albeit aided by a much more conservative offensive approach and some incredible play by Michael Floyd.

    Then came 2011.  Kelly pulled starter Dayne Crist after a miserable first half against South Florida where Crist went 7 of 15 for 95 yards with one interception.  In came Rees again and this time he was fantastic.  In the second half he completed 24 of 34 for 296 yards and 8.7 yards per completion.  He did throw two interceptions, but one was the famed “purple face” throw where Rees hit TJ Jones on the shoulder pad… yeah that one… the one where  TJ forgot to look (he never forgot again).

    Based off of that performance Kelly gave Rees the nod and he went to the Big House and helped stake ND to a 24-7 lead.  Before a rowdy crowd of 110,000  Rees was outstanding for much of the game completing 27 of 39 passes (69%) for 315 yards for 3 touchdowns and two interceptions.  Many remember Rees’s fumble in the early part of the 4th quarter (the oops) that cost the Irish a touchdown that would have all but sealed the game, but few remember that down by 4 with 1:12 to play, he drove the Irish down field for the go ahead score.  If not for an unbelievable defensive collapse, that would have been viewed as a Montana-like performance.

    Rees went on to have an very strong first year on the whole (see below) despite looking all but incompetent the last two games of the year to most fans as teams devised new strategies to stop him.  And while the pain of the disastrous end is most remembered, the game before Boston College Rees was 30 of 38 for 296 yards for 2 touchdowns and no interceptions against Maryland. Against Boston College he completed 61% of his passes.

    So, how to judge Rees’s season as a true sophomore starter?  By any reasonable measure… excellent for his age.  Outstanding for his relative recruiting ranking.

    To backtrack, Rees was a very thin QB ranked no higher than 30 by any service.   He’s the kind of kid you hope you don’t have to play until his Junior year at the earliest. Yet… despite his low ranking here’s how he compared to his (except for Holiday) much, much higher ranked peers at Notre Dame his sophomore year.  In case anyone hasn’t yet seen this, Rees is the all-time leader in completion percentage in the history of Notre Dame football… built on his experience as a sophomore on an 8-5 team.

                                        %         Yds        TD      Int          PE
    1.	Tommy Rees	         65.5	    2,871	 20	 14	   133.4
    2.	Jimmy Clausen            60.9       3,172 	 25 	 17 	   132.5
    3.      Everett Golson           58.8	    2,405  	 12	  6	   131.0
    4.	Brady Quinn              54.1       2,586 	 17 	 10        125.9
    5.	Dayne Crist              50.0         130 	  1 	  1 	   111.1 	
    6.	Andrew Hendrix           48.6         249 	  1 	  2 	   103.3	
    7.	Carlisle Holiday         50.7         784         3 	  7 	    93.6

    Now, you can make fair excuses for Clausen and Quinn as they theoretically had harder situations to deal with. I actually wrote almost this exact article for Clausen after writers started labeling him a weak armed disappointment .

    Regardless Rees stacks up very well against his contemporaries (Golson, Crist and Hendrix) and his predecessors (Clausen, Quinn and Holiday).  Does it mean he’s better than any of the above?  Absolutely not, but what he’s “shown”  you so far is the best completion percentage, the second best overall production, an on par TD/Int ratio and the best overall efficiency rating compared to his peer QBs at Notre Dame.  Clausen and Quinn will be remembered as two of Notre Dame’s best.

    Let’s take the comparison away from Notre Dame and compare him to the top ten recruits of Rees’s year as tabbed by Rivals.  Surely Rees is lagging the best QBs of his year as he was only ranked 31st and 64th..

    Here’s Rees against the top ten recruits of his class as rated by Rivals:

                                      C       A          %  TD    Int             PE
    1.	Tyler Bray              147	247       59.5	17	6   	   144.8
    2.	Tommy Rees              269     411	  65.5  20	14	   133.4
    3.	Jake Heaps (#1)	        144 	252 	  57.1 	 9 	8 	   111.0
    4.	Phillip Sims             18	 28	  64.3	 0	2	    98.9
    5.	Connor Wood              21      42	  50.0	 1	4	    91.8
    6.	Brett Nottingham  	  5       8	  62.5	 1	0	   185.7               	                                
    7.	Jesse Scroggins	          0	  0        0.0	 0	0            0.0	 		     
    8.	Blake Bell   	          1       4	  25.0	 0	1	    -8.2
    9.	Paul Jones             	0 	  0	   0.0	 0      0            0.0
    10.	Zach Lee                Baseball
    11.	Scotty Young            0 	  0	    0.0	 0      0            0.0
    * Rees threw for 2,871 yards, Bray had 1,849.

    Bray gets the nod based upon his TD to INT ratio, but Rees threw for a substantially higher completion % and for over 1,000 yards more.  His year towers over those of the best recruits in the country.  Okay, could be an off year. Let’s compare him to an acknowledged great year for QBs.  How does he compare to the Newton, Mallet, Marve, Korn, Brantley, Clausen class?

    The answer: even better.

                             PE      Yds    TD     Int        %
    1.	Tommy Rees      133    2,871    20     14       66%	 
    2.	Ryan Mallett 	 10      892	7	5	42%
    3.	Tyrod Taylor 	103     1036	2	7	57%
    4.	John Brantley 	111      235	3	1	64%
    5.	Aaron Corp 	 58       14	0	0	50%
    6.	Stephen Garcia  113	 832	6	8	53%
    7.	Logan Gray 	DNP				
    8.	Clint Brewster 	Transfer				
    9.	Cam Newton 	 72       14	0	0	50%
    10.	Jarrett Lee 	116	1873	13	16	53%
    11.	Robert Marve	107	1293	9	13	54%
    12.	Willy Korn 	119      216	1	1	68%
    13.	Chris Forcier 	 55	  22	1	1	27%
    14.	Pat Bostick 	 97      270	1	4	53%
    15.	Mike Paulus 	 21	  33	0	2	31%
    *Note that different formats were chosen based on data availability

    A lot of those guys turned out to be very good/great quarterbacks.  Lee and Newton ended up battling for the SEC titles and NC.  Mallet was arguably among the top 3 QBs in the game.  We all know about Clausen.  As sophomores? Not so much.  Rees’s 20-14 TD to Int ratio suddenly looks pretty good.

    What to make of all of this?

    1.  Rees performed, not just okay… not just average, but at the top of his peer classes as a sophomore.   Remember, these are 25 of the very best recruits over two years. 

    The pump fake for most Irish fans who were frustrated with Rees was this:

    • Rees completes run of the mill passes like you drink water so you didn’t mentally give him credit for those passes, yet those are the exact type of passes that sunk Crist at ND and Kansas.  If you can’t do that, the rest doesn’t matter. He received very little credit for the passes that “moved the chains”
    • He was asked to carry the offense when Kelly should have put the burden on Gray and Wood (most know I had a man crush on Gray and now Hood.)
    • Rees has the fortunate misfortune (like that, I coined it) of having Floyd and Eifert.  That’s great in this sense: if you have them to rely on you can always throw it in their direction.  It’s poor from another perspective which is this: if you have easy outs then you’re not being forced to see the field and make hard choices as there is an “ah screw it” out in Floyd and Eifert.  Try this experiment in anything in life.  Given an out, people will take the easy way.  It’s normal, not a judgement.

    2.  Rees has an enormous amount of improvement to be made mentally.   If you look at most of his mistakes, they were not physical, but mental mistakes.   Very few true sophomores know the offense like the back of their hands and see the field, most are struggling like hell to just stay alive.  If you look at most sophomores, even the very best, they’re almost universally terrible.  That’s not to say that all are and always will be, but T. Smith, Newton, Palmer, etc…. many of the best quarterbacks  (Heisman winners) were terrible or non-existent in their sophomore years.  There are many exceptions of course, but on the whole, even the top recruits are rarely ready to play. Manziel was great… on the field, that head may never be read for prime time.

    3.  Rees’s physical limitations won’t be reached until he’s 26, if he’s average.  That’s not to say he’ll get exponentially stronger, no one knows.  We do know that Brees increased his arm strength measurably in the NFL, an improvement he said came from focusing on one weak muscle in the chain and flexibility (and yes, you can buy his arm strengthening workout online.)  I’d suggest Kelly have his agent to call Brees’s agent ASAP.

    4. Coaching matters.  It’s no secret that I thought Molnar was the weakest link in the coaching chain and I can’t express how happy I am he is gone.  Much of last year’s improvement can be explained by Martin’s focus on field position and less turnovers.  I expect “Martin for Molnar” to yield a substantial improvement in the ratio of interceptions per passing attempt.

    5. Kelly should not have played Crist or Hendrix over Rees.  Crist seems like a future CEO, but he never excelled at ND  and was pulled by Weis at Kansas after a miserable year.  Hendrix has a gun for an arm and Tebow-esque running ability, but that doesn’t mean he’ll almost always complete the right pass at the right time.   Nothing in his record supports that.   I hope nothing but the best for Hendrix or Crist in whatever they do, which I suspect will be exceptional.  I’m not writing Hendrix off, either. But the biggest gripe about 2011 from most was : Kelly mishandled the QB situation.   With hindsight, that rings hollow.  You have to play the clubs in your bag and Weis screwed the pooch by only recruiting two QBs over three years.

    What does it mean for 2013?

    I’m not predicting “Clausen greatness” for Rees, but  I do think there are many factors that will help him make a considerable jump this year.

    • A better all-around receiving corps.  There will be many options on every play, not just two and those options all have YAC (yards after catch) potential.  I think this year’s wide receiving corps will be better all around than any Kelly has had since he’s been in South Bend.
    • Martin for Molnar.  Molnar only saw “production”, Martin understands tradeoffs and how deadly turnovers are. He also appreciates the run.
    • Tempo.  Maryland was the only game in 2011 that Rees ran at Tempo and it was his best game.  Rees tended to perform better under pressure to move the ball.
    • Awareness.  As a sophomore most are trying to just to not make mistakes.  It’s helpful to note that Kelly relies on unconscious-competence (see Tony Dungy for more).  His goal is to have his players make plays without thinking and “rep” them to that end.  Rees will be making many pre-snap reads correctly, getting the ball out quickly and, hopefully, staying out of trouble.
    • Decision-making.  Rees has to make better decisions, particularly in the red zone. The mistakes he made should have been expected as a sophomore, but he should play at a much higher level this year. Kelly’s made it a focus.

      “I think our red zone play is what we have focused on. It has been so much better and a lot of that has to do with Tommy (Rees) and his experience. He has been really good taking care of the football and giving us the opportunities to score touchdowns rather than field goals. I would say that stands out the most.”

    • Running.  Okay, okay make your “can’t out run a South Bend Policeman” joke, but Rees’s ability to run for 5 yards instead of taking a sack or throwing up an interception is a small adjustment that could have an enormous impact.  If you can take just a third of Rees’s interceptions and sacks and turn them into 5 year gains, Rees in 2013 will look radically different from Rees circa 2011.

    Rees hasn’t been given  enough credit for the job he did after getting thrust into a role he was nowhere near prepared for in 2011.   He should have been a clipboard holder drinking protein drinks. He also hasn’t been given  enough credit for his clutch throws and ability to take the team down the field in adverse situations.   I love Golson’s potential, but also I respect the hell out of Tommy. There would be nothing more satisfying than to see the young kid thrown to the wolves early in his career return to lead an underdog Notre Dame team to another BCS season. And to see a quarterback who was introduced as a boy, leave as a man and a winner.

    27 Responses to “Tommy Boy”

    1. Giggity_Giggity says:

      Good article and interesting numbers. I can’t wait for you and Andy to fight about it.

    2. We’ll be fine. TR is the man and he can do what needs to be done.

      • Domer Dog says:

        Interesting article, and I think Tommy will be good this year for us (not Golsonesque, but good). I think your numbers make a point, but I’m not sure of how much of one. Tommy had really good numbers, and big numbers, because he was thrust into action where many of the contemporaries were not. I agree his completion percentage is very good, but he has had significantly better Olines than say Clausen in his freshmen year (I still remember him running for his life). I think he would drop into the middle of the pack if you compare his junior campaign. Not to mention, the numbers include INT’s, but not fumnbles and TR had a few that year (including the untimely MI fumble). Personally I think he has too many limitations, but is a great team player, a great leader, and I’d like to see him on the sidelines next year as a grad assistant because I think he will be a great coach someday (hopefully here after one of the others in the Kelly coaching tree lines).

        • You’re focusing on Clausen, not the 30 other QBs. The point isn’t that he’s as good as Clausen, something I made clear to point out. The point is that his sophomore year was an historically excellent one against his peer group. Take Mallet for example. Or Lee. Or Marve. Or…. Others were thrust into the roll with much higher pedigrees and were just about abominable. Of course the other point is that most of the others weren’t ready to play despite their higher pedigrees.

          “So, how to judge Rees’s season as a true sophomore starter? By any reasonable measure… excellent for his age. Outstanding for his relative recruiting ranking.”

    3. I hope the best for TR because in my heart I’m an ND fan. My brain would like to see a breakdown of his stats vs higher quality competition–that’s where i believe there is cause for concern. I desperately want him to prove me wrong but i fear that against UM, MSU, OU, the Tree and maybe ASU we are in for gut wrenching coin flip type games.

      Go Irish and thank God for the Defense!

    4. SEE – Excellent piece, with a few comments.

      1) The more 5 year gains we have the better off we will be – I can’t emphasize that strongly enough.

      “Weis screwed the pooch by only recruiting 2 QBs over three years.” It’s nice to see that old phrase being used again after all these years, but:

      Wrong – Luke Massa – the 3rd of the 3 QBs from the 2010 recruiting class, is still at ND, although he has been moved to WR.

      “Rees in 2013 will look radically different from Rees circa 2011” – well said.

      16 and a wakeup!!

      • Terry, the two QBs over three years referred to the three years preceding Rees. Weis recruited Clausen, Crist and then no one. Everyone knew Clausen was leaving. That left one QB over three classes at position that often relies heavily on 5th year kids.

        Here’s what Kelly was left with:

        5th _________
        Senior _________
        Junior Crist
        Sophomore _________
        Freshmen Rees, Hendrix, Massa

        Essentially Crist had to work out or Kelly was screwed. You never have to want to rely on a freshman or sophomore QB and when Crist didn’t work out… that’s what we had.

        • Kelly was hired in January of 2010. I was under the impression that those 3 were already verbally committed to ND at the time of Kelly’s hiring, IOW they had been recruited by Weis prior to his being fired.

          Hence my remark.

          BTW – good piece.

          I stand by my remark on 5 year gains – the more the merrier.

    5. Great article. Those damn facts do get in the way when people want to criticize don’t they! The game against Michigan is the best example. Under incredible pressure, Tommy did look like Joe Cool in the last minute.
      I love Everett, but Tommy will be very solid this year.

    6. I think Tommy might have a year like Craig Krenzel or Ken Dorsey. Remember those two QBs who played for a national title?

    7. eddie te geek says:

      You pay too little attention to those miserable last couple games and bowl game of 2011 – you know, when the other teams figured out that they could drop 8 and wait til the three-man rush got to the immobile Rees. Unless he’s gotten a whole lot quicker, I think DCs are drooling at the prospect of facing Rees.

      • SubwayAlum_2012 says:

        with Rees’ experience calling plays, he will get throws off quicker, call it intuition or QB awareness or something, which will negate max coverage.
        ND’s running game is much better now than it was in 11, which will take pressure off the pass game. against BC in 11, ND could barely run in the 2nd half (much to the credit of Luke Kuechley and co.), which led to the max coverage ploy
        even if tommy is marginally faster, and can turn a sack into a 3 yard gain, that will create more 3rd and manageable situations where Chuck Martin has been known to run the ball on 3rd and 5 or 6. this is fact; he pulled that stuff all the time when i played against him while he was HC at Grand Valley. what better time to come downhill with a run than when the defense is dropping 8 expecting pass?
        as always GO IRISH!

        • eddie te geek says:

          Whether the Irish running game will be “much better” remains to be seen. There is very little experience at RB and the O-Line is largely reconstructed this year. And whether ND can run or not, Kelly is quite quick to abandon the run in favor of the pass.

          I am skeptical that “he will get throws off quicker” when throwing into 8-man coverages. Bottom line – if he is no threat to run, and he is not, he will be considerably easier to defend. And he does not have a strong enough arm to make all the throws – let’s see him throw those wounded ducks into coverage.

          I hope I’m wrong. But we started a freshman in his place last year for a reason, and if Kelly were smart, he would start another freshman in his place this season.

          • SubwayAlum_2012 says:

            Brian Kelly has turned every team hes ever coached into a successful one; I’ll venture out into an unknown realm of optimism and say that he is indeed smart, and will make the best decision he can with the availible information.

            the one point where i will agree with you… yes, i hope you are wrong. i also hope that the ominous clouds of doom and gloom that reside in your soul will subside, and you can breath in the fresh air and infinite possibilities of the 2013 Irish season. trust me, it’s intoxicating. and if that doesnt help, take this little nugget that i use when the breaks are beating the boys:
            if notre dame wins, 3 billion people in china and india wont know or care. if notre dame loses, 3 billion peple in china and india wont know or care. now theres something to be said in that little ditty, considering we live in a time of infinite and instantaneous information.

            GO IRISH

            • Mike Coffey says:

              I think everyone here realizes the relative position sports holds in the pantheon of life.

    8. FightingSonOfNotreDame says:

      Just a great article overall. I appreciate your insights!

    9. We all hope Rees has improved, he has 2 major deficiencies, arm strength and mobility. The more pertinent facts are how he handled top defenses. Pitt in 2011 wrote the book how to defend Tommy, and everytime he faced fast defenses after that (USC, Fl. State, Stanford) he played terribly. I am optimistic he can and has improved spending a year on the sidelines, both mentally and physically, but this article is too optimistic.

    10. As refreshing as it is to see a football related article, I’m not sure what the purpose is of trying so hard to change the perception of Rees’s 2011 season. I was then, and still am, of the opinion that Rees’s performance in 2011 was “sophomoric” but that this was the best alternative we had. During that preseason I remember feeling a little uneasiness at the fact that the QB race between Crist and Rees was so tight. It was a harbinger that Crist never would reach his 5-Star potential.

      I think it’s fair to characterize Rees as a mixed bag that season. Yes he moved the ball effectively, yes he was prone to sophomoric interceptions, and yes he had trouble holding onto the ball when sacked.

      For the criticisms that we passed the ball too much that year, I think that if we pounded it then we would have lost the same 5 games and the outcry would have been that we wasted the talents of arguably the best WR/TE tandem to ever to play at ND.

      More pertinent is what will happen in 2013 – I expect Rees to excel vs the weaker competition (Temple, Purdue, AF, and Navy), play decent in games that we are favored but on upset alert (MSU, ASU, Pitt, BYU), and struggle in the toss up games (Mich, Okla, USC, Stanford). We’ll need our defense to come through vs the top teams as they did last year.

    11. NDBonecrusher says:

      Right on, canuck75! Had no idea of those stats.

      Surprised to not hear more chatter about the–I dunno–GAZILLION TIMES Tommy saved EG’s bacon last year. He was like the minutemen, ready at a moment’s notice. I have never witnessed him bitch about his role on the team or be anything but supportive to EG. How many times did he go in completely cold and make a clutch play? That would be a nice stat to add to SEE’s impressive list. (Damn nice article, BTW.)

      Look- we all know about the lad’s style and limitations. Of course I would prefer that Everett had not gotten in trouble. But you go to war with the plan you have, not the plan you WISH you had. Tommy can do the job and do it well. Instead of griping and hand wringing and “Woe is me–if only Everett were here!”, I think we ought to get behind Tommy 100% and not jump all over him the first time he messes up.

      Personally, I spent way too much of last season worrying about when the other shoe was going to drop rather than enjoying the ride. This year I’m gonna enjoy the ride ’cause it’s gonna be another one to remember. GO IRISH BEAT OWLS!

    12. Watched recent videos not one pass was on the money. Every completion the receiver had to turn bend down or twist to make catch. Tyler and Floyd were very good at adapting to this. Positive point his arm strength seem to improve. Wishing tommy the best

    13. BeveragePavilion_69 says:


    14. I’m surprised nobody has compared this year’s ND squad to the “almost national champs” of 1993, and more specifically, how the unheralded and not incredibly gifted senior QB Kevin McDougal played terrific for the Irish in that special season. McDougal, essentially a pocket passer, basically came out of nowhere with essentially no experience to lead ND to greatness that year by playing great fundamental football ad being very clutch in critical situations.

      I’m not saying ND will challenge for the national title again this year … but the Irish should be pretty dang good with that defense and a senior QB who knows the ropes and has proven he can get it done most of the time. Go Irish! Why not us again this year???

    15. Can you say “Wally Pipp!?” Happened to TR last year and to EG this year. Fortunately, that was not the end of the story. Expect TR to put up the kinda numbers that get him noticed by the guys who coach on Sundays – while leading The Irish back to the BCS. GO IRISH!!

    16. It is nice to see TR finally get some love for his great work.

    17. We all hope the best for TR and for the Irish. The statistics mentioned dont account for all TRs fumbles. Also remember at the end of the year teams were rushing two and dropping nine and TR could rush for anything. We will be ok if we have a very strong running game and if we can throw short (less than ten yards0 on virtually all passes. If you look at TR completion percentage it is because the vast majority of passes are for less than five yards down field. With the receiving corps he had the run after the catch was the way we got yards on the passing game. If we get into a shoot out or if we get behind TR does not have the talent to win a game. His strength is in managing a game.