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Notre Dame QB Tommy Rees fills undefined role with confidence

Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees started two games last seasafter making 12 starts previous year. | Getty Images

Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees started two games last season after making 12 starts the previous year. | Getty Images

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Updated: October 25, 2012 6:16AM

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Tommy Rees is giving new meaning to the term ‘‘option quarterback.’’

The junior from Lake Forest isn’t Notre Dame’s starter, but he’s not exactly a backup, either. And, no, Irish coach Brian Kelly says Rees isn’t part of a two-quarterback rotation.

So what exactly is Rees’ role for No. 10 Notre Dame?

‘‘Whatever’s asked of me,’’ Rees said after leading the Irish (4-0) to a 13-6 victory Saturday against Michigan in relief of shaky starter Everett Golson. ‘‘I’m willing to go in and help the team win. And from a day-to-day [standpoint], keeping the energy high and just being a leader on the field and at practice.’’

It was the second time this season Kelly called on Rees to close out a game. On Sept. 8 against Purdue, his entrance for the two-minute drill near the end of a tie game was met with boos from Notre Dame fans — until he led the game-winning field-goal drive.

Against Michigan, Rees entered the game in the
second quarter — after Golson’s second interception — and scored a rushing touchdown and led two field-goal drives. That was all the stingy Irish defense needed.

Golson will start when Notre Dame hosts Miami on Oct. 6 at Soldier Field, but whether he finishes the game is entirely up to him. Kelly said Golson looked ‘‘unsettled’’ against Michigan and said Golson was benched for his ‘‘carelessness,’’ not any jitters he might have had
under the lights.

Golson will continue to get every opportunity to seize the job, but Kelly said he sees the potential for ‘‘great things’’ in the Irish and won’t allow a young quarterback’s growing pains to sabotage that.

‘‘Our goal is for him to start it and finish it,’’ Kelly said,
repeating a familiar refrain.

So Rees will go back to the bench and await his next turn.

‘‘[Rees] is a tough competitor,’’ said tailback Theo Riddick, who’s in a time-sharing situation of his own with Cierre Wood and George Atkinson III. ‘‘He knows the game, and there’s not one day that he doesn’t want to go out there and perform. So when his number’s called, we expect that.

‘‘It just shows you can’t be selfish. It’s a team sport, and you’ve got to do whatever you can do to make this team better. He understands that. When he comes in, we all expect him to know everything and play as if he is the starter, and he does that.’’

Perhaps more surprising than Rees’ long-relief outing was his two-yard rushing touchdown. It was the first of his career and a ‘‘long time coming,’’ Rees said. It’s the kind of play that’s usually called for the nimble Golson.

And as if to underscore Rees’ unique and uncertain role in Notre Dame’s offense, Kelly said he’ll be more prepared for Rees’ possible use from now on. It might not be a true two-quarterback system, but it’ll have to be a two-quarterback game plan until Golson proves he can do it all himself.

‘‘Our game plan was packed for Everett,’’ Kelly said. ‘‘We probably had very little in there that
reflected a lot of Tommy Rees’ strengths. We’ll do a better job of balancing that next time.’’

NOTE: Four-star receiver Torii Hunter Jr., the son of Los Angeles Angels outfielder Torii Hunter, committed to play football and baseball at Notre Dame after attending the game Saturday.

The 6-foot, 175-pound Hunter had 43 catches for 749 yards and 11 touchdowns as a junior last season at Prosper (Texas) High. He had offers from several high-profile schools, including
Nebraska, Oklahoma, Arkansas and West Virginia.

Hunter is an outfielder in baseball.

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