Irish not too wise about Owls
BY LaMOND POPE Sun-Times Media August 30, 2013 11:40PM
Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees throws against Navy during the first half of an NCAA college football game in South Bend, Ind., Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
No. 14 Notre Dame
The facts: 2:30 p.m., Ch. 5, 890-AM.
2012 records: Temple 4-7,
Notre Dame 12-1.
The line: Notre Dame by 291⁄2.
Updated: October 1, 2013 6:51AM
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Junior quarterback Connor Reilly has never attempted a pass at Temple.
He has a new coach in Matt Rhule. And five members of Rhule’s staff are new to the program.
It all adds up to a unique challenge in terms of preparation for No. 14 Notre Dame.
“I think I know more about Eastern Michigan’s defense than I do about anybody else,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said this week. “Coach [Phil] Snow, who’s their defensive coordinator, was at Eastern Michigan last year, and I found myself talking in terms of what Eastern Michigan was doing, and obviously that’s not their talent pool. They’ve got Temple players.
“So there’s that unknown.”
The teams meet in the season opener Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium. The unknowns aren’t limited to the Owls.
Notre Dame gets its first look at how the offense will flow with Tommy Rees back at quarterback.
“He can do the things we want him to do in terms of pushing the football down the field vertically,’’ Kelly said. ‘‘He doesn’t have the arm strength that Everett Golson does, but if he’s on time, if he’s reading it properly, if he’s doing all the right things, he can get the ball to exactly where we need him to get it.
“He’s matured as an individual, as well. All those things I have been able to see firsthand. There’s no reason why he can’t do the things that we’re asking him to do, and he’s shown us that he can do them.”
Rees has plenty of experience. He has appeared in 33 games and has made 18 starts. But this is the first time he’s starting a season opener.
“I haven’t changed in how I prepare for practice and how I go out there and compete,” Rees said. “It gives me an opportunity to go out there and compete, along with being the voice on offense that everyone is looking to.”
This will be Reilly’s first start, period.
“He can make all the throws, and at the same time, he processes things very quickly,” Rhule said. “When you face a group like [Notre Dame’s defensive line], or this secondary and these linebackers, you can’t sit there and pat the ball and hope things work out for you. You’ve got to get the ball out of your hand and make some tough throws off the bat.”
Reilly beat out Clinton “Juice” Granger. It was one of the first major decisions as a coach for Rhule, who was an assistant for six years with Temple before spending last season as the assistant offensive line coach with the New York Giants. Temple also has new offensive and defensive coordinators, adding a wrinkle to the game.
“We’re playing an opponent that certainly, with coach Rhule taking over, we don’t know a lot about,” Kelly said. “We do know this: Matt tutored under [former Temple coach and current Miami coach] Al Golden. We know the success that Al has had, and I have a great deal of respect for Al and his program and the discipline and organization that the Temple football team is going to have in this game. As well as working for [Giants] coach [Tom] Coughlin, you know that this football team is going to be ready.
“They return a lot of players from last year. We don’t know exactly what we’re going to see. We think we do, but I think this is one of those openers where we’re going to have to kind of make some adjustments along the way.”