Notre Dame 2012 Top 25 countdown: No. 16

Today we take a look at Captain Clutch ...

No. 16: Tommy Rees, QB

Making the case: It would have been difficult to predict that Rees would finish this high back in August, when Everett Golson was named Notre Dame's starting quarterback. But Rees saved the day on a number of occasions for the Irish, first overcoming the boos from the home crowd in leading the offense down the field to set up a game-winning field goal attempt on its last drive in a tied game against Purdue, then two weeks later against Michigan, running it in himself for the game's only touchdown in a seven-point win. He relieved a concussed Golson on Notre Dame's final regulation drive against Stanford, too, setting up a game-tying field goal and later throwing what proved to be the game-winning touchdown pass in overtime. (He started and beat BYU a week later, also.) The junior completed 57.6 percent of his passes for 436 yards with two touchdowns and one pick, but numbers hardly tell the story with Rees. Simply put, he embodied the next-man-in philosophy that the staff preaches, setting a tone for the rest of the roster and helping this Irish team become greater than the sum of its parts. His ability to be on-call at a moment's notice was invaluable, and Notre Dame is lucky to have the aspiring coach for one more year to tutor Golson and the rest of the quarterback contingent … and maybe save a couple of more games in the process, too.

Preseason ranking: 14

The countdown

No. 17 DaVaris Daniels, WR

No. 18 Chris Watt, LG

No. 19 George Atkinson III, RB

No. 20 Dan Fox, LB

No. 21 Matthias Farley, S

No. 22 KeiVarae Russell, CB

No. 23 Robby Toma, WR

No. 24 Kyle Brindza, K

No. 25 Chris Brown, WR