Tommy Rees is back as Notre Dame Football's starting quarterback and with that comes a long list of attributed stigmas and preconceived notions regarding his abilities to win football games. Some beliefs are rooted in hard-case evidence while others are often wild exaggerations. Rees seems to understand that scrutiny and overanalysis comes with the territory of any QB in South Bend. As the 2013 opener nears, its past time for the doubters among Irish fans to accept the book on Tommy Rees's efforts leading the ND offense remains unfinished. As he heads into his final year of an often brilliant but occasionally soul-crushing career - we can look ahead to the final Fall with realistic and still optimistic expectations from a player who possesses all that is necessary to put Notre Dame in the best position to win football games each and every week. Ladies & Gentlemen - your 2013 Notre Dame Quarterback Season Projections:
Last Year - This is the third installment of my projections and there have great improvements from Year 1 when Dayne Crist was the apple of Notre Dame's eye heading into an early season tune-up against South Florida. If you care to review the "bold" estimations of a player we all thought was primed to explode you can find it here. What I like to remember from that article is the projection of Everett Golson as the 2012 starter who would run wild and "be ND's first BCS Bowl winning QB". A year ago I crunched the numbers again and analyzed Brian Kelly's offensive tendencies as the head coach of Cincinnati with an agile QB. Here's what that research produced:
2012 Everett Golson Projections: 2,700 Pass Yards, 300 Rush Yards, 64% Completion, 25 Pass TD, 4 Rush TD, 7 INT, 28 Pass Attempts/Game
2012 Everett Golson Stats: 2,405 Pass Yards, 298 Rush Yards, 58.8% Completion, 12 Pass TD, 6 Rush TD, 6 INT, 26.5 Pass Attempts/Game
Outside a big miss forecasting Golson's Passing Touchdowns, I was right in the wheelhouse on nearly every educated guess. Brian Kelly's use of Zach Collaros in 2009 was a great preview of how Kelly would use Golson's talents to improve the team's rushing attack. Notre Dame averaged 200+ rushing yards in the regular season and Golson attempted just 26.5 passes per game which was nearly identical to Collaros 26/game in four 2009 starts. There's no time for lamenting on the loss of the talented playmaker - Everett Golson won't be running out the tunnel to improve on those fantastic numbers this fall.
Chuck Martin heads into his second season as the Notre Dame offensive coordinator and Brian Kelly has inferred that Martin will have more control over the offense than any Irish coordinator prior. Let's not pretend though that Kelly's fingerprints won't be all over the weekly game plan - they will. While the national championship game performance (just 32 Rushing Yards versus Alabama) dilutes the season averages, Notre Dame was still one of only 26 teams to average 189 Yards Rushing and over 200 yards passing per game - a pretty solid debut season for the former Irish safeties coach. Without the the dynamic Golson and 2012's biggest playmakers in Tyler Eifert, Theo Riddick, Cierre Wood, Roby Toma, and John Goodman - can we expect an increase in production through the air or on the ground? I say maybe.
I won't go too long into this area, but these projections take into account all aspects of the Irish offense and these opinions:
1. Over a 12 game schedule I believe the 2013 offensive line will prove to be a dominant and more versatile unit than 2012's. Nick Martin will be revelation at center.
2. The wide receiver position lacks experience and some savvy by 2012's standards but the increased level of the athletes will also prove to be an overall upgrade for Rees.
3. Troy Niklas will be good but he's not the security blanket Rees went to in 2010-12. The entire TE group won't approach Eifert's catch or yardage numbers from last fall.
4. A dynamic running back stable will shine with the ball in their hands but hurt Rees 1-2 times per game on pass-blocking assignments.
5. This is the best supporting defense Tommy will have had as an every week starter.
Have we buried the lede far enough? In spite of glowing reviews by every set of eyes at Notre Dame's Fall Camp, the numbers of the very unaffectionately nicknamed "Tommy Turnover" don't lie - he throws WAY too many interceptions. A quick box score glance of his spot duty in 2012 is unsettling - his interception ratio did not improve. As a frosh in 2010 he averaged an INT every 20.5 throws. In 2011 this improved to a still unacceptable INT every 29.5 throws (during a season where he attempted 33 passes per game). With 2 interceptions in 2012 on only 59 attempts, his average held firm at at 2011's INT ratio with one every 29.5 throws. If Notre Dame is BCS or bust in 2013 - this area must see a monumental improvement over the course of 350+ Tommy Rees passes.
How many passes is Tommy Rees going to throw this fall? Same as I pointed out last year, Brian Kelly's QB deployment strategies varies greatly depending on personnel. With immobile QBs like Tony Pike & Tommy Rees, Kelly aired it out well over 30 times per game. Offenses fueled by athletes like Zack Collaros & Everett Golson used the run to set up the pass and threw much less. Fans may not want to hear it, but all signs point to Tommy Rees throwing the ball 31+ times per game at a minimum - 5 more attempts than Golson averaged last year. Here's the interception totals Rees would compile based on different ratios during a 32.5 Attempts per Game season for Rees:
13 Interceptions - If Rees maintains his 2011/12 INT ratio he'll approach 2011's miserable 14 INT campaign. This is 7-5 or 6-6 territory.
19 Interceptions - If Rees reverts to his average INT ratio from his freshman year, he'll toss 19 interceptions. Hard to imagine Rees lasting long enough at this average to throw this many INTs. If he does you're looking at a 5-7 team.
10 Interceptions - If Rees improves his ratio at the same rate in 2013 as he once did from 2010 (20.5) to 2011 (29.5) he'll average an INT every 38.5 attempts and still hit double digits in turnovers. 9-3 is likely in this range with an outside shot at 10-2.
6 Interceptions - If Rees matches Tony Pike's élite level of ball security in 2009 (INT every 62 attempts), he'll only throw 6 INTs ... the same number Everett Golson posted in 2012. We can dream. If Rees plays a full 12 games and throws six interceptions, then Notre Dame Stanford in Week 12 could be a National Semifinal for entrance to the BCS Championship Game.
Brian Kelly is the Head Coach at Notre Dame because he managed his players and their skills so masterfully at Cincinnati in 2009. He reinforced this strength in 2012 while keeping his personnel moves incredibly finely tuned to the pulse of the team and its needs. Tommy Rees isn't the prototype for ANY offense but he is above average at enough football intangibles that Kelly can foresee what the potential of the offense is with Rees and he likes it. At this point in his ND tenure, he is deserving of trust in this decision.
As mentioned in the opening paragraph, the final projections for Rees need to leave room for optimism. His average yards per attempt has increased each season from 6.7 in 2010 to 7.0 in 2011 and finally 7.4 in 2012. The practice videos cannot deny that Rees has filled out his once scrawny frame while adding a little more mobility outside the pocket than we've ever seen. He was already a guy who appeared much smaller on TV than he does in person. I can attest to this truth after passing him on the quad before 2012's spring football game. As a final kicker - Rees and staff have never, ever prepared an entire summer for an offense led by Rees. This is new ground for all involved. IF Rees's interception averages improve, his yards per attempt continues to improve, and he can occasionally extend a play just a second or two longer than he's done before then we can intelligently project a solid season for Rees in 2013. At my projected 32.5 passing attempts/game and an increase to 7.8 Yards/Attempt I think the Rees 12 game numbers land near here:
3,042 Yards Passing, 22 Passing TD, 30 Rushing Yards, 3 Rushing TD, 8 Interceptions, 69.3% Completion
Per Game Averages: 253 Yards Passing, 1.8 Passing TD, 2.5 Rushing Yards, 0.7 Interceptions
Are these the numbers of a 12-0 quarterback? Experience says no, but instincts say that they might be with the 2013 Irish defense holding court and a left side of the offensive line that could be starting in the NFL this season. Whether these predictions can hold water will be determined on September 8th in Michigan's Big House. When Michigan's defense stacks the box on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th play against ND and dares Rees to go over the top, THEN we'll know if the 3rd installment of the Rees Experiment can finally prove to work.
From what I've read, there is no "maybe" when it comes to Cole Luke. Sounds like he's in the 2 deep and has been very impressive.
I agree with most of that. Funny thing - I don't think they'll miss T'eo all that much. Jarret Grace is supposedly quicker and more athletic.
As for TR, I hope you're right. I've stated my case as to why I have reason to doubt it and there's no need to beat a dead horse. In terms of determining what we have in TR this year, Temple won't tell us a thing. I could beat them. He's never had problems beating bottom feeders, but has been consistently poor against the likes of UM, USC, Stanford and OK.
Based on what has been said and who's running with the 1st string Defense---Carlo Calabrese and Dan Fox will be the starting ILB's.
Carlo has borrowed a page form Manti last year and has trimmed 10+ lbs. off his body and worked very hard on his quickness--It is noticeable and Carlo is looking sharp and it sure made a huge difference for Te'o last season.
Grace is a super talented LB playing behind good 5th year seniors and will be rotating in--Carlo and Dan Fox should not have to play every snap and it will help to have fresh ILB's over the course of the season.
Here's another huge step forward---we now have a legitimate Nickel and Dime set of packages so the LB's won't have to stay on for 3rd and long downs.
Last year Spond and Fox were out there chasing WR's and RB's because we didn't have viable Safeties/CB's to take their place. We do now with Shumate-Collinsworth, Redfield,Lo Wood and maybe Luke Cole as the season goes forward.
Opposing teams that are reviewing last year's game videos are going to be in for quite a few shocks this year--we aren't the same team.
Alan, your opinion is basically that TR has improved, he'll be better than 2011, etc. Many people agree with you but I'm on the fence. I don't get persuaded by comments from coaches (see Herring's comment about Goodman and Toma), and I most DEFINITELY don't get influenced by good 7-7 performances.
Here's what concerns me most about Rees: He's gotten worse at every juncture.
In 2011, after starting nearly half the games on 2010 and all but one game in 2011, he got a little worse every week, and by the end of the year (BC, Stanford, FSU) he was unwatchable. In the bowl game, his judgment on that pass to a triple covered Goodman - ON FIRST DOWN - that basically ended the game was one of the worst I've seen in decades of playing and watching football. And he wasn't a rookie. By that point, he'd probably started 15 games or so.
So you and others say "Hey, he was just a soph". True, but Herring does a nice job here of showing his INT stats were actually WORSE last year. And in my opinion he got way too much credit for the games he supposedly "saved". Against UM the D handed him the ball 5-6 times and he put up exactly 13 points. He looked lousy against BYU.
So while I would like to think there will be marked improvement in 2013, I'm not convinced. These stories about a stronger arm and quicker feet ... I'll believe it when I see it.
Once again we are looking at two year old information with a OL that had Mike Golic trying to hold the interior at Center and Cierre Wood as the only viable running back after Jonas Gray--who was a force--was out with his knee injury.
Not the same TR--not even close to the same team--offensively and defensively either.
You guys don't take the word of Kelly and Martin as far as what he has evolved into now as a Senior--so you aren't going to believe me. You won't even be believers if we are 5-0 at the end of September because you are convinced that TR is a bad QB and always will be.
I can't help you there...
In Chicago--we have a saying: "You can't steer a parked car..." You are convinced he is bad---and are waiting for the season to decide if he has improved despite many knowledgeable people and video evidence showing improvements..
All you have to do is watch any of the Fall Practice Videos with Jack Nolan to see a stronger arm--better feet---and a guy who completes passes and gets TD's in the Red Zone. If he is doing it hour after hour in practice--somehow that's not good enough or he won't do it on Saturday?
I know it's TR---but get over the 2011 season--it's long gone
I get your point. My point is this: I'd have a much easier time getting over 2011 if there was an upward trajectory in his performance. But there hasn't been. In fact he's gotten worse, as Steve Herring has pointed out.
As far as coaches' comments and camp performance - don't forget we only see what they want us to see. A 3 min clip from a 7-7 drill or even a full scrimmage is essentially meaningless in terms of evaluating ANY player.
Hey ... I hope you're right and he's progressed. I am not in any invested in TR playing poorly. Quite the contrary, I'm happy to be wrong here.
I live in downtown Chicago; where are you watching the game?
Kelly and Martin throw compliments around like man-hole covers... they don't say good things unless they are real.
If you watch 7-8 sessions of 4 minute UND.com highlights and you see several well thrown balls and some nice Red Zone scoring passes over the 2 weeks of Fall camp---that's a good indication of where they are with TR
I live in Naperville and my three brothers and I are ND grads so we try to get to most home games and watch the road games as best we can on ABC/ESPN.
The plan is to have a solid ND TEAM so that a few turnovers or heaven forbid, injuries which are all part of the contact sport of football--can be off set by lots of other players and decisions by the coaches
We are beyond the shaky point of 2-3 years ago of living or dying by the QB's mistakes---I believe.
The defense is going to be a lot more aggressive this year now that we have some stability in the secondary. The D will set up or even score some TD's themselves--that's progress too.
Quick question: "Leaving TR completely out of the picture--Is ND's football program of 2011---defensively and offensively-- the same as the one we have now in 2013?"
The answer is "NO". The whole team is a lot better talent wise, more comfortable with Kelly and the other coaches, understanding the scheme's, the intense 2 hour practice effort/routines---you name it.
Bringing TR back into the picture---TR is not the same scared Sophomore getting blitzed to death by Stanford with a make shift Golic at Center and no real running threat because Jonas Gray blew out his knee. That was "totally ugly".
He's a lot more comfortable and prepared and he has a more balanced set of offensive weapons and solid OL guys around him as well. His defense is very good too.
Kelly/Martin and even TR know what he needs to do to be successful. Why everyone is putting these huge performance expectations on TR as though he is the sole reason we will win or lose is getting real tiresome by now.
He is going to make mistakes--he is going to create a turnover---but so do Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. It's to be expected for any QB and Kelly is going to game plan it so that TR doesn't have to be perfect to win and just execute the game plan and hit the open guy/best mismatch out there and move the chains.
He's worked very hard--gotten stronger and more maneuverable with his footwork--and has built a good passing routine with all of the WR's and TE's.
Relax--there will be some bumps along the way--but stay the course and keep the faith. We went 12-0 with Golson and his erratic play, jitters and all,
Ok, fair enough
So you're basically on record as stating TR will have a fine year
This is despite Steve Herring's analysis which shows he's actually gotten WORSE, not better in terms of protecting the ball.
Maybe you're right. Maybe Tommy will have progressed.
I hope so.
But I remain skeptical and will believe it whe I see it.
And I'm not talking about a big game against Temple.
@chicagoguy My analysis doesn't point to him getting worse. In limited action last fall (59 total pass attempts) his interception ratio was exactly the same as 2011 which was better than 2010.
I agree with much of what Alan says as well - too many fans can't buy into Rees being even a little bit better in spite of so much gained experience and what may prove to be a better overall unit on both sides of the ball providing help. At this moment in 2013 I have little doubt Rees is better but I'll go back to chicagoguy with my assertion that ND's Wins & Losses are directly tied to his ability to hold onto the football over a 12 games season.
Have you guys paid any attention to Kelly/Martins's comments regarding TR's Spring Practice results, Summer Work Outs/7-on-7 Drills and the entire Fall Camp results???
Have you watched any of the Red Zone passing Drills from UND.com and other passing work from the Fall Camp with TR?
You are mired in circa 2011---The entire team is much better, TR has improved a lot and he has a new OC in Martin designing a game plan for him that will involve using a Pistol formation.
We don't need Andrew Luck or Matt Barkley to be successful and TR can be productive and no, he won't be perfect because QB's do make mistakes but they will be no where the 24-26 turnovers from 2011.
ND could have easily been 10-2 in 2011 by beating USF and Michigan...even with 20+ turnovers--imagine that.
@TheSubwayDomer crazy to think Rees could end up 2nd or 3rd alltime on ND passing lists and this is first summer/fall starter prep.
Could NOT agree more and have been saying so for weeks/months.
ND's W/L will be more directly tied to Rees's ability to protect the ball than any single metric on either side of the ball.
Your predictions of 22 TD's and 8 INTs seem about right.
Only thing I'd add to your analysis is this: The real test of Rees will be how he plays vs. UM, USC, ASU, OK and Stanf. Past years stats have been heavily padded by good (not great) games against teams like Army, Maryland, Navy, Air Force, etc, and in the games against their elite opponents he has been off the charts terrible. Beyond awful.
In fact in the one game he started against the elites that they won (USC, 2010) he was absolutely terrible and they won in spite of him.
So don't get too excited about a good, turnover free performance vs. the Owls. And be prepared to hold your breath week 2 vs. UM.
@chicagoguy The closing line is "we'll know more when Michigan stacks the box on the "1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, & 5th series"! You're absolutely right - when ND is playing a solidly athletic defense, and you need to add BYU to that list, how will Rees handle an early gameplan that forces him to throw the ball? We'll see.
Martin/Kelly had over 200 yards running and over 200 yards passing per game on average last Fall. That "balance" is not going to change much with TR running the show.
TR is going be passing the ball about 45% of the plays and audibling when he's sees a stacked box . Teams that load up against the run are going to get frustrated as they see quick slants or outs to the sideline zipped over their heads.
Martin is in the Press Box calling the plays---I don't see him and TR slamming their heads against a stacked front trying to run the ball--that's not happening.
Molnar was the OC when TR was a Sophomore--he and Kelly had some frustration points and he's coaching at UMASS these days. Martin and TR are going to counter act whatever a Defense tries to do to them.
The new Pistol formation is going to "freeze" a lot of LB's and Safeties because almost every play has either a "run" or "Run fake" to start it. It's hard to stack a defense against the Pistol---the QB "wheels and deals" based on what the D shows him before the snap.
@ManCaveQB last sentence says it all for me. You think they try 2 go deep a lot vs temple 2 at least put something on film 2 make Mich think
@ManCaveQB but his turnovers were were down because he wasn't fumbling the ball. Decreased turnover rates are good.