Rees May Get Chance To Reset Scouts' Impressions
The book had been written on Tommy Rees. And it was pretty much closed.
NFL scouts probably figured they’d seen all there would be from Rees, that his senior season as Notre Dame’s presumptive backup quarterback would add nothing to his existing body of work.
But then came the news that starting quarterback Everett Golson has been suspended from Notre Dame for academic reasons. Suddenly, Rees has been given a career reset. If he’s able to prove to Brian Kelly that he deserves one more shot at the starting job that used to be his, then Rees may force scouts to rip up their old scouting reports and rewrite them.
Here’s what the NFL already knew about Rees:
* He was the first Notre Dame freshman to win a bowl game, leading the Fighting Irish to a win over Miami in the 2010 Sun Bowl, a fine follow up to a win over USC.
* By the second week of his sophomore season, he’d supplanted Dayne Crist as starting QB. He had a decent season, throwing for more than 2,800 yards and completing 65.5% of his pass attempts. But he had 14 interceptions to go with his 20 touchdowns. The questions about his decision making began.
* Questions about his character abounded following a May 2012 arrest. An incident at an off-campus party led to misdemeanor charges of resisting arrest and illegal consumption of alcohol by a minor. The infraction led to Rees being suspended for the season opener and gave Golson the chance to start.
* Rees proved quite capable in coming off the bench during his junior year. In week 2, he replaced Golson and led the Irish on the drive that resulted in a game-winning field goal against Purdue. He replaced Golson in the second quarter of the Michigan game and led the Irish to another win. He threw the game-winning touchdown pass that beat Stanford in overtime.
* As good as he was in relief, he couldn’t reclaim the starting job from Golson. Even when he was given one chance to start, he had a string of seven straight incompletions against BYU that propelled him back to the bench.
But now Rees presumably has a chance to create a new impression. First, he has to prove to Kelly that he’s the right man for the job this year, a better bet for the Irish than Andrew Hendrix, a dual threat QB who is stylistically similar to Golson, or Malik Zaire, who’s not only a true freshman but an early enrollee. That shouldn't be a tough sell. Rees is the best passer on the roster, and his dedication to film study turned him into a mentor of sorts to Golson last year.
When scouts take their new long look at Rees, they’ll see a 6-foot-2, 210 pound quarterback who throws an accurate catchable ball. He hasn’t yet shown the ability to make all the throws the NFL is looking for, particularly the deep ball. And he's looked awkward in the past, making throws from compromised positions. But if he wins the starting job, he’ll have every opportunity to demonstrate an improved technique and a better sense of ball protection.
He will also have every advantage to succeed. He’ll be playing behind an experienced offensive line and will have a legitimate No. 1 receiver in T.J. Jones. Troy Niklas is a 6-7 tight end who converted from linebacker and will now have the chance to see the targets Tyler Eifert enjoyed last year. Plus, Notre Dame’s defense is going to keep Rees in every ballgame.
And imagine what a difference it will be to be getting all the starter's reps in practice.
Bottom line, the NFL is going to want to see a player who has matured and overcome some questionable judgment, on the field and off. If he can take better care of the football and complete roughly 65% of his passes, as he’s done over the 624 throws he’s made in three years, Rees may play himself back into NFL relevance.