A day after Notre Dame's 35-21 loss to Oklahoma, Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly made three things clear pertaining to his quarterback situation:
No. 1 - Tommy Rees is still the starting quarterback going forward.
"He certainly is," Kelly said when asked is Rees will remain the starter as the Irish move into the middle portion of their 12-game regular season. "There's no question the quarterback that (is going) to start for us is Tommy Rees."
Rees had his worst game of the season in the loss to the Sooners when he completed just 9-of-24 passes (37%) for 104 yards with three interceptions. The senior is just 23-for-57 (40%) the last two weeks against Michigan State and OU.
"I just think it's accuracy, you know," Kelly said. "It's tight man coverage and the last couple of weeks we've played two very good defenses that play a lot of man coverage. We've got some young receivers out there that are not precise, quite frankly, in their route running."
"There were a number of instances that he wasn't protected as well as he needed to be or the routes were not run as well," Kelly continued. "Look, Tommy's a big boy. He can take care of himself and he knows he has to play better, but the last two weeks with Michigan State and Oklahoma, two very good defenses that play a lot of man coverage, you have to be a lot more precise and we've got some young guys running around out there and we have to be more precise in what we're doing across the board."
No. 2 - Andrew Hendrix will see more playing time going forward.
Since battling with Everett Golson for the starting quarterback job prior to last season, Hendrix had all but vanished prior to Saturday. He played in just three games last year and made his first appearance of the 2013 season in the first quarter against the Sooners. Kelly says the idea is to give the Irish a little more versatility in short yardage situations.
"It's important for us to run the football," said Kelly. "So I think Andrew gives us that dimension that allows us to run the football, help us out in some short yardage situations where we now it's been difficult for us with so many guys on the line of scrimmage that it doesn't turn into throw the football every time."
Hendrix had five carries for 10 net yards on Saturday. Kelly says he wants Hendrix to be more than just a running threat though.
"We'd like to expand it where we get him to have some play-action pass and some passing game as well," said Kelly. "We don't want to turn this into a Wildcat. We want him to be part of the offense and one that you have to defend."
No. 3 - Malik Zaire will not play this year if Kelly has his way.
Even before Rees struggled, Zaire was probably the most popular No. 3 college quarterback in America. The true freshman enrolled early and went through spring practice earlier this year. He obviously moved a notch up the depth chart when Everett Golson had to leave school, but don't look for him to see playing time in 2013.
"Unless we have an injury you're not going to see Malik unless we get into an injury situation," Kelly explained. "We only have the three quarterbacks, so we have to keep him ready to go. But I would prefer not to play him unless we have a medical situation."
Kelly clarified that a "medical situation" would mean injuries to Rees and/or Zaire that necessitated him playing this season. Kelly also says that due to Zaire's mono earlier this season, he does have the possibility of being granted a medical redshirt down the road.
The Alma Mater
There was some confusion after the game about whether Irish players were or were not supposed to stay on the field for the signing of the Notre Dame alma mater. Several players headed right off the field toward the stadium tunnel and locker room when the game ended, but others stayed on the field.
"A lot of them hadn't lost at home and they weren't sure what to do," Kelly said after his team lost Saturday after winning 10 consecutive home games dating back to 2011. "It was really, I didn't communicate it to them clearly what the protocol was, but we changed that protocol two years ago. After a loss we do not stay out on the field to sing the alma mater. We come in."
The reason for the change of protocol is player safety reasons.
"I just felt like in those situations after a loss, there (are) a lot of emotions," Kelly explained. "It's important to get the team back into the locker room and get them under my guidance."
Outside linebacker Ben Councell was flagged for targeting in the second half of Saturday's game when he hit an OU receiver with the crown of his helmet. Councell was immediately ejected from the game and he would also have to sit out the first half of Saturday's game against Arizona State under the newly implemented targeting rule.
"The rule is clearly intent and there was no intent," Kelly said. "He was trying to make a play on the ball. We'll obviously discuss it with the commissioner of the ACC and we'll make our case that in video as we've looked at it, we clearly don't see any intent for him to lead and intentionally try to strike with his helmet."
Councell is the first Irish player to be flagged for the infraction since it went into effect at the start of this season. Kelly says he has not talked to defensive coordinator yet to discuss personnel for next week's game, but he says Romeo Okwara would be the likely player to backup starter Jaylon Smith in the first half against ASU if Councell's suspension is upheld.
Jones and Day
Sheldon Day missed a second consecutive game due to the ankle injury he suffered two weeks ago against Purdue.
"Sheldon tweaked his ankle in pregame and just did not look good," Kelly said of the defensive end.
Jones rolled an ankle late in the game and came out due to Oklahoma's man-to-man defensive coverage. Kelly says he may have stayed in if the Sooners were playing a softer zone and expects Jones to be ok this week.
A report out of Palm Beach, Fla near Bryant's home town says that Bryant's father indicated the freshman running back may redshirt this year, but Kelly rebuffed that notion.
"I don't know where that came from," Kelly said. "He didn't play this week because of a knee injury. When you start talking about medical redshirts and you talk about redshirts here at Notre Dame, we are way down that line. We've gotta slow down a little bit here. For us to talk about it those terms, I all can tell you is that Greg didn't play because of a knee injury that he sustained. That's about it."