SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Tommy Rees has been Notre Dame’s go-to guy when the Fighting Irish get in a jam. And they’re certainly in one now.
Rees will likely become the quarterback Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly turns to now that Everett Golson is out for 2013.
Golson disclosed Sunday that he has been suspended by Notre Dame for at least the fall semester for what he said the university called poor academic judgment.
“I take full responsibility for my poor choices and will do all that is asked of me to regain the trust of my family, friends, teammates, coaches and the entire Notre Dame community,” he wrote.
Rees, who was suspended for the 2012 season opener after pleading guilty to misdemeanor resisting law enforcement and illegal consumption of alcohol by a minor, is expected to start under center this fall.
Kelly turned to then-freshman Rees to start the final four games of 2010 when Dayne Crist went down with a torn patellar tendon in his left knee. Rees also stepped in when Crist was benched after halftime in Notre Dame’s ugly season-opening 23-20 loss to South Florida in 2011, and he was repeatedly called on last season when Golson struggled or was injured.
Rees rallied the Irish to three victories and took every snap in a win over BYU when Golson was injured, although he struggled in that game.
The question is whether Rees can be the starting quarterback on an elite team. He is 403-of-634 passing for 4,413 yards in 33 games, including 18 starts. He has thrown 34 touchdown passes and 24 interceptions but is a slow runner, rushing the ball only 47 times for a loss of 71 yards.
Not exactly the ideal candidate for Kelly’s spread offense.
The other choices are Andrew Hendrix, a better runner than Rees who has been repeatedly been beaten out by him, and early enrollee Malik Zaire. After frequently talking last season about how tough it was using a first-year starter who already had a year in the system, it doesn’t appear likely Kelly will want to turn to a true freshman as the Irish seek to prove they can back up last season’s unbeaten regular season with another strong showing.
The Irish find themselves in this bind because of the sudden departure of Golson, who the Irish were counting on to lead the offense with his arm and his legs. Golson helped the Irish regain the No. 1 ranking for the first time in nearly two decades and get to the national title game against Alabama in January.
Golson was officially no longer enrolled at Notre Dame as of Friday, university spokesman Dennis Brown said Saturday night. While the player did not specify what he did to get suspended, he wrote that he understands his integrity could be in question.
“But I want to reassure my supporters that through this experience I will return a better student athlete as well as a better individual,” said Golson, who did not respond to telephone or text messages left by The Associated Press.
He said he chose to attend Notre Dame because of its mission to develop him both on and off the field.
“My parents and the community I grew up in have instilled values in me that have and will continue to allow me to be successful in the future. There have been many lessons learned as I worked to become the starting quarterback at Notre Dame and each was a result of Coach Kelly’s belief in me as an athlete and a person,” he wrote.
He also thanked the university for the opportunity it already has given him and the opportunity to retain his eligibility in January.
“Lastly, I want to thank the University of Notre Dame for the opportunity already granted and also the opportunity going forth to regain my eligibility in the winter of 2014.”
The immediate problem for Notre Dame, though, is the fall of 2013.