NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Tommy Rees will find himself in a familiar role this Saturday against Temple when he takes his first snap of 2013 as the Fighting Irish starting quarterback. The senior discussed a number of different topics recently including his view on ‘swagger’, turnovers, improving in the red zone, and whether or not he felt slighted by not being named a captain.
Q: Where is the level of confidence as you approach this season in comparison to last season?
Rees: “Everyone has confidence, which comes through the preparation we’ve done. The harder you prepare, the more you know, the more work you put in, the more confidence you have. We’ve worked extremely hard throughout camp and I think everyone knows the high level of practice and competition that it takes to be good.”
Q: How do you prevent yourselves from crossing the line of 'swagger' to complacency?
Rees: “(Laughs) I’m not big on the whole ‘swagger thing’ – it’s been diluted a little. We have a great group of guys that understand and know how to play this game right by relying on one another. We’ve done a good job of taking it one practice at a time and one play at a time. As long as we continue that, we’ll put ourselves in good situations.”
Q: Did your place on the team last year give you a little better insight into the offense?
Rees: “Yes, I think it’s different than what you’re used to looking at and you understand the game from a different aspect. That ultimately will help me in the long run and I learned a lot from that experience.”
Q: Can you talk about Zack Martin, Bennett Jackson, and TJ Jones being captains?
Rees: “It’s a great honor for those three guys and definitely well-deserved. Obviously Zack was a captain last year, but Bennett has done a great job as a defensive leader and TJ, the way he’s handled himself throughout his time here, I tip my hat to him - he’s proven to be a great teammate and leader. I couldn’t be happier for those guys.”
Q: Do you feel like you should have been named a captain?
Rees: “No. And it’s not going to change who I am or how I prepare. I’m still going to be a leader as a quarterback - guys are still looking to you every day. I don’t get caught up too much in that kind of stuff. I’m pretty happy with where I’m at.”
Q: Who has surprised you so far in camp?
Rees: “I’m not really going to get into who’s been a surprise. I think we’ve got guys that are out there working hard every day and everyone’s gotten better at really understanding what we’re trying to do offensively. I’m excited about the progress as an offense that we’ve made.”
Q: How nice is it to have a guy like TJ Jones?
Rees: “He’s a great player. He’s proven himself to be a great player the past three years. He’s a guy you can definitely count on.”
Q: What do you guys have to do to improve in the red zone the season?
Rees: “When we’re down there in practice situations we really have been focusing on executing. We’re really focused on understanding what we’re trying to do down there and that goes a long way.’
Q: How much does the offense need to kick it up a few notches in comparison to last season?
Rees: “We need to put ourselves in situations to be successful and the offense has worked really hard during camp with growing and getting better. I’m excited with where we’re at.”
Q: What you want to see from this team on Saturday against Temple?
Rees: “We have to do a good job practicing and game planning in order to do well against Temple. Once Saturday gets here will have several more practices in us and we’ll be ready to go.”
Q: Some people say that 2011 was unlucky and 2012 was lucky. How do you see and compare those two seasons?
Rees: “Football is a game of inches, like they always say. Luck and that kind of stuff, we really don’t want to focus on that. This year we’re just focused on executing, getting better every day, and taking it one game at a time. We’re just trying to be the best team that we can.”
Q: You understand the importance of not turning the ball over. How do you carry that over into 2013?
Rees: “(Laughs) No, I never heard that. It’s really just the mindset - it’s something I really learned a lot about in my career. There are times that you can make a play and there are times that you can’t and I think that’s really the difference between turning the ball over and not.”
Q: What has been your impression of the Malik Zaire?
Rees: “I was in his shoes a couple of years ago and I think he’s done a good job of coming in and taking in everything he can. Playing quarterback is a tough thing and he’ll continue to work hard and take it one day at a time to get better. He’s really committed to working hard at it. He always comes to Andrew (Hendrix) and I with questions, just trying to know what’s going on. At times it can be tough for a kid to come in, but he’s proven that he can ask the right questions and get better.”
Q: How has Zack Martin improved since the BCS National Championship Game?
Rees: “He did a great job working hard in the off-season and getting stronger. Zach is a great leader and a great worker and a great player - he’s everything you want from a fifth-year senior left tackle. He really sets the bar at how things need to be done.”
Q: Was there one particular thing you wanted to get done since camp started at Shiloh?
Rees: “No, not just one thing. I wanted to come in right out of the gate and be the best I could. I wanted to prepare every day and focus on what was at hand – a ‘one play at a time’ mentality. I just wanted to give the offense a chance to be successful.”
Q: When the media has been in practice your red zone performance has been lights out. Has it been that way the entire camp?
Rees: “Yeah, you know, every day we’ve had situations down there and we’ve really been focused on what we’re trying to do and what the defense is trying to do to us. I’m happy with where the offense is at in that regard.”
Q: What does having TJ Jones, DaVaris Daniels, and Chris Brown on the field at the same time do for the offense?
Rees: “We’ve got a bunch of guys at receiver that can do a lot of different things. As an offense we have confidence in a number of guys to go out and get it done. That’s a testament to how the coaches have prepared us and how these guys have worked. They all present something a little bit different.”