<
>

Kelly sticks with Rees, but questions remain

Given time to think over his decision on a quarterback for Notre Dame's bowl game, Brian Kelly reasoned that Tommy Rees had led his team for most of the season. During this "silly" period in the college football world, Charley Molnar remains Kelly's offensive coordinator, at least as of Tuesday afternoon. The futures of Manti Te'o and Tyler Eifert could be changing as well, though those decisions are not as imminent.

Kelly emerged from the Irish's first bowl practice Tuesday and addressed several issues in the relative down period for his team, which has not played in 10 days and won't again for another 23.

It was in the immediate aftermath of a Nov. 26 loss at Stanford that Kelly said anything was possible as it relates to his bowl-game starter at quarterback. On Sunday, he said that Rees would start the Dec. 29 Champs Sports Bowl against Florida State. Kelly elaborated on that decision Tuesday, saying he initially left open the possibility for Andrew Hendrix to start because it was in the immediate aftermath of defeat.

"Look, it will be a topic that gets debated and I understand that — it's the quarterback at Notre Dame," Kelly said. "But when making our decision we felt like Tommy has got a great rapport with Mike [Floyd] and Tyler and our offensive line feels really good with his communication and getting in protections. And there's a lot of things you can't just undo after one game.

"But I think you also know that Andrew Hendrix can do some things that can help our football team, and we need to see him as well. So Tommy's gonna start and then expect to see Andrew playing as well."

Who will be coaching the signal callers is another matter. Kelly is aware of the reports that Molnar, his offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, could become the next coach at Massachusetts, but nothing has been signed just yet.

"I've seen the reports, nothing is official on our end," Kelly said. "Charley has not notified me of anything. Once he does we'll certainly make it public, but that's on Coach Molnar and [UMass]."

The juniors Te'o and Eifert, meanwhile, filled out paperwork for NFL evaluations, though Kelly stressed that is just one step in the decision-making process.

"I don't wanna speak for either one of those guys, but I think we all know why Manti is here," Kelly said. "If Manti just wanted to go pro he'd be somewhere else. He loves Notre Dame, he loves what it's about. The same thing with Tyler. We'll see where it goes but this is the time where we encourage them to get all the information, and then we can make a decision."

Notes: Dayne Crist did not practice Tuesday, and Kelly said he does not see him being part of the team's bowl preparation as the senior goes through the process of seeking a new school to complete his final year of eligibility at. Crist was granted his release last week and will not return to Notre Dame next season. He will graduate this month. ... Kelly said he's optimistic that Jonas Gray (ACL tear) could be able to work out at pro day this spring.