Opportunity Lost…and Found

Tommy Rees' one-game suspension deprives him of a dream trip overseas with his teammates and the Irish football program. But the bigger punishment will be realized in what will likely become an extended absence under center as the Brian Kelly era begins anew this September.

At some point during his three quarters of struggle in Pittsburgh (a game in which he rallied his team to victory), or in a sub par showing vs. USC last October, or among the offensive wreckage that was the end of the 2011 regular season, Tommy Rees permanently lost his footing among Irish fans.

His remaining foothold and apparent stranglehold on the starting quarterback job at Notre Dame is now gone as well.

Rees has quarterbacked the Irish to wins in 75 percent of his starts. He's rallied the Irish to victory in the fourth quarter twice, both times on the road, and once against an arch-rival, a streak-snapping win vs. the Trojans in 2010. He was likewise one inexcusable defensive collapse by his teammates from another road rally, this time against hated rival #2, Michigan, last fall.

He' already ranks sixth in program history with 32 touchdown tosses. He's technically the most accurate passer in the team's storied history at 64.2 percent, and is the only rookie starter to lead a Notre Dame team to a bowl win.

But for the foreseeable future, and barring injury or absolute collapse from his competitors, Tommy Rees will be Notre Dame's backup. Either second or third string behind players with more eligibility, stronger arms, quicker feet, and nearly as important, a fresh slate.

Brian Kelly suspended Rees for one game, noting he and fellow sidelined former starter Carlo Calabrese can "attempt to climb the depth chart following the conclusion of their respective suspensions."

Good luck with that if you're Rees, who with his May 3 arrest, inadvertently opened Pandora's Box -- in this case, evil taking the form of valuable experience for his quarterback competitors.

When One Equals Two, Three, or More

Training camp's initial two weeks should provide Rees and fellow quarterbacks Andrew Hendrix, Everett Golson, and Gunner Kiel a relatively equal number of snaps and opportunity to mesh with their offensive teammates.

Soon thereafter, Kelly will turn his focus from fundamentals and development to the depth chart. Rees won't be on the season's first edition, as either Hendrix or Golson (or both) and potentially Kiel will be prepped for Game One action vs. Navy.

For two weeks leading up to game day, the Irish defense will work against a Scout Team option offense in practice. Likewise, the Irish offense will train vs. defensive sets run by Navy (and potentially a bit for Purdue, the team's Week Two foe). Hendrix, Golson, and Kiel are all fair game to take the field first, second, or last, either in standard or emergency relief, as the Irish look to start 1-0 on the Emerald Isle.

Win or lose vs. Navy, its unlikely Rees' reps will increase exponentially thereafter, not with an experienced Purdue squad coming to South Bend for Week Two.

Its however likely at least one of Rees' competitors will shine, at least intermittently vs. Navy. The previously underrated Midshipmen have since suffered a three-year talent drain defensively, and though its unlikely the Irish will put another 56 on the Mid's as they did last October, yardage will be plentiful and enough points should follow.

In other words, Kelly will see something in at least one member of the opportune trio that he can build on. That spark will carry over into practice week for Purdue, when one or more likely two members of the unseasoned trio will surely remain part of the game plan.

Cracking that newly-formed pecking order won't be immediate for Rees, who'll attempt to earn game-preparation reps for the first time since last December in Orlando.

Should the Irish start 2-0 (for the first time in the Kelly era), either with one starter, a two-quarterback system, or simply with impressive play from the position and offensive unit overall, a Week Three start in East Lansing likewise seems set in stone for one of Rees' competitors who, from most accounts, were missing just one ingredient possessed by the team's former starter:

Experience.

Rees gave each the elusive element of opportunity as a result of his off-season arrest. In doing so, he lost his, and likely for much more than one game.


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