The news that Tommy Rees and Carlo Calabrese were being suspended for the game against Navy in Dublin, Ireland was dropped without any real warning on Tuesday afternoon, just a few days before Brian Kelly has his annual camp press conference. Once Brian Hardin divulged the punishment issued by Brian Kelly towards the two players, Fighting Irish fans took to Twitter like thay have done on so many occasions before, and let the world know what they thought about the whole deal.
Now that I have had a few hours to contemplate it all, I have a few thoughts about the impact of both suspensions. But first, what exactly are they [Carlo & Tommy] up against with these punishments?
As we can see, the punishment is fairly consistent with any one game suspension handed out by any coach. No travel/dress for game and a drop to the bottom of the depth chart with a charge to prove themselves to rise to the top once more.
For Tommy, it might as well been 4 or 5 or 6 games. One of the running jokes at the time of Tommy's arrest was that at least this made Kelly's decision that much easier. Then, time continued to tick and it appeared that perhaps maybe there would be no punishment handed out- at least in the form of playing time. Now, of course, we have the beginning of a change in the Notre Dame quarterback direction.
I truly believe that if Rees was not suspended, he would most certainly be the starter against Navy. Not because I wished him to be, or that I think that he is the best option at quarterback; but because we have already seen Kelly's affinity to playing experience and his trust in Rees on the field, whether it be rightful or not, it exists. That cloud would have very likely impaired a move towards something else in fall camp.
Now, Kelly can look upon the quarterback depth chart and battle for the starting position with clearer eyes and new purpose. Once that is done, I don't believe it will ever be undone and Tommy Rees will most likely never start another game at Notre Dame. Ideally, it's a 3 man race for the top spot with Gunner Kiel, Everett Golson, and Andrew Hendrix. Realistically, it is a two man race with Golson and Hendrix going head to head.
As for Carlo Calabrese, it is a much different animal. Carlo is basically a "co-starter" along with Dan Fox. Both Fox and Calabrese split a lot of time last year and it looked like that was going to be the case once again in 2012. What isn't there for Calabrese as opposed to Rees, is the line on the depth chart.
After Fox and Calabrese, the depth chart at that particular ILB spot at the end of spring has preferred walk-on, Joe Schmidt listed. Now, Schmidt may be a fine and competent player, but he still has "walk-on" attached to his name. He's not quite on that level. Now, I suppose players like Jarret Grace and Kendall Moore could be moved over for a game, but I am not as ready to announce that Grace is ready to be a PTPer as a lot of other folks. I do, however, think Moore is very comparable to Calabrese.
Why am I so worried about this LB issue? Why? Because we play Navy, an option team, in the first game of the season. That requires a couple of needs; a) Tough hitter to play the run & b) familiarity with how to play against the option. Calabrese fit the mold quite well and Fox does as well. Still, that lack of extra depth may sting the Irish a little bit. At any rate, I expect Calabrese to rise back to, or close enough to that co-starter role leading up to Purdue or at least Michigan State.
So there we have it. Two starters will be at home while the Irish start the season on the road. As simple as that sounds, it is anything but. What if Notre Dame struggles against the option? What if whoever starts at QB struggles- and then the guy to replace him struggles as well? These of course are nightmare scenarios, and aren't nearly as dreary as what I just made them out to be- but this is Notre Dame football. We've seen nightmare scenarios come into full fruition before and with less ammo.
Raise a glass to the start of a new season.
Raise a glass to the new direction at quarterback.
Raise a glass to whatever you like- just drink it fast before reality sets in.