Tommy Rees' punishment for two misdemeanors following a May arrest could be a lot more than one game in the grand scheme of things.
I asked Irish football coach Brian Kelly Friday if he wants the week one starter to be the starter for the rest of the season.
"If he plays well against Navy, yehhh," Kelly said with a big smile. "Honestly, if we get the guy and he starts against Navy and he doesn't play very well-- I don't want him to start the next week nor do you. But I would like, like everyone else, to prepare for somebody to have a great game against Navy to make it a difficult decision what you do in week two."
That would mean Rees, who won't be allowed to play against Navy or travel with the team for the game, would be on the outside looking in if the starter plays well out of the gate.
Andrew Hendrix, Everett Golson and Gunner Kiel are the three candidates to get the week one starting gig against Navy in Dublin on September 1st. None of the three have ever started a game before and only Hendrix has ever seen the field in a real college game. So does Kelly have an idea what direction things will play out?
“I have an idea, but an idea is all I have," Kelly said of who he thinks the starter may be. "It's not like, it's this guy and we are set for it. I have an idea but we have to see how this plays out."
Kelly hasn't ruled out using two quarterbacks week one either.
“Everything is on the table," Kelly explained. "Ideally, I’d like to have one quarterback and have him be the guy.”
Kelly said they will divide reps up evenly to start fall practice between Hendrix, Golson and Kiel. He says as they move forward and one or two guys separate themselves, there will be an increase in reps accordingly.
"Hopefully in time we want to give the quarterback for Navy enough reps leading up to the game," Kelly said.
So where does that leave Rees, the the starter to end each of the last two seasons, during fall camp.
“We have a plan," Kelly continued. "Not every rep you take is a rep for Navy. There will be opportunities for Tommy to stay sharp.”
Even though Rees is the only one with starting position, Kelly says he's not really willing to to accept a 'growing up' phase from any of his QB's.
“I don’t have any patience for that," Kelly said bluntly. "We have to have a quarterback that we can trust—that can take care of the football. As we move forward, it’s developing trust with taking care of football. The starting quarterback against Navy is the guy that brings those traits with him.”
Hendrix and Golson appear like the two likely candidates to start week one considering Kiel is a true freshman and only has spring practice under his belt. Hendrix had a role on last year's team and played a portion of the last several games.
"He needs to keep playing, keep getting reps, continue to learn the game," Kelly said of what Hendrix has to do to get the job. "He has the tools to play the position at the highest level.”
Golson shined during the Blue-Gold game and appears like he has the ideal physical tools to excel in Kelly's spread offense. The biggest question with him has been his ability to pick up the offense. But Golson has made strides in that area.
"I'm pleased, very pleased with his progress," Kelly said.
The Irish have the toughest schedule in the country with two games against top five teams, three against the top 10, and five against the top 20. Kelly began his pre-season press conference by not making big proclamations.
“2012 is a new year," Kelly began saying. "We’ve graduated players. There is a new dynamic on our team.”
“You can’t climb Mt. Everest in one day but you can with a focus—one game at a time—we feel we can climb to the top. This year is about doing it, not talking about it.”
Kelly was asked what he would view as a successful season and those things haven't changed.
“Success for us is winning," Kelly said. "We have some internal goals and I know we will be judged by wins and losses. We have some internal things that we will keep in the house.”
Besides quarterback, the other big concern is a lack of experience at cornerback but Kelly says he is comfortable with his options there despite the lack of playing time the guys have had in the past. He calls it a very competitive situation.
The press conference almost ended with no questions about Kelly's top two players.
"No one is going to ask about our tight end Tyler Eifert or Manti Te'o?" Kelly said, turning to his media relations director Brian Hardin. "Did you give out media guides? They are on the cover!"
Kelly went on to say that it's always a positive sign when "your best players have the best summer." Both Eifert and Te'o made the decision to return to Notre Dame for their senior seasons despite the possibility of being 1st round draft picks by the NFL. Kelly was giddy when talking about Eifert, who Kelly says can hit a 7-iron 195 yards.
“To see his development and maturity, he’s a leader on our football team," Kelly said more seriously. "When I first got here, he was in the back row. Now he’s up front.”
Kelly also retracted a statement he made on Thursday about the possibility of Field Turf coming to Notre Dame Stadium.
"I said Field Turf is coming," Kelly admitted. "I want to go back on that one a bit, I want to add one word: I HOPE Field Turf is coming."
Kelly said the matter was above his pay-grade and that it would be something for Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick to decide.
Notre Dame begins fall camp Saturday with the season opener against Navy in Ireland coming four weeks later on September 1st.