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Notre Dame’s QB combination unorthodox but effective

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012 10:09 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — As a result of a cognitive test he couldn’t pass, Everett Golson watched as Tommy Rees took over the Notre Dame offense. This described Tuesday’s practice. A growing sector might argue it also describes the nerve-jangling quarterback dynamic observed on Saturdays this fall.

But as long as Golson completes post-concussion protocol and returns by Thursday, the sophomore starter will be ready to “help” Saturday against BYU, per Irish coach Brian Kelly. It’s already established that Rees, the junior backup who essentially steered the team to half its victories, is of more than minor assistance.

The bizarre reality just may be that the Notre Dame quarterback room is a help center, its inhabitants a band of aid, abnormally but effectively compensating for each others’ flaws. A 6-0 start is hard to quibble with, anyway, as a product of positive reinforcements.

“We’re going to get three quarterbacks ready,” Kelly said Tuesday, throwing third-string junior Andrew Hendrix into the mix. “We already know what Tommy is capable of doing. Andrew has not gotten a ton of work, and if Everett can’t go till Thursday, then maybe we have to bring (the game plan) down a little bit.

“But we’re going to make sure that you have to defend a quarterback who can run. That’s going to be part of the game plan.”

Golson absorbed a helmet-to-helmet shot against Stanford last weekend and now adds a cognitive test to the pile of reasons he has given way to Rees. It’s stacked atop the need for quick thinking in a two-minute offense, poor performance, tardiness and that skull-rattling hit.

Golson apparently has passed a balance test, an exam and a test for symptoms (agitation, light sensitivity, etc.). He just hasn’t passed muster in the medical staff’s eyes yet.

“We’re seeing great progress,” Kelly said.

As usual, if Golson isn’t fully ready, everyone knows when Rees will be: all the time.

“He’s watching the game, relaying stuff to coaches,” Irish tight end Tyler Eifert said. “His knowledge of the game is so good that the coaches sometimes depend on him to talk to them and tell them what he’s seeing out there from the sideline. He’s not distracted at all.”

In this, Rees is not unique as a quantity in reserve. It’s fairly standard for the backup to be part of a sideline consortium.

“If (the backup) has suggestions, we certainly listen,” Baylor coach Art Briles said. “We tell him if he sees anything or has any suggestions to let us know. Sometimes we think it’s a really good idea, sometimes we kind of think about it a little bit. But we do want him involved.”

But as Kelly said, Rees is the rare player who can come in cold — as he did in chilly sideways rain against Stanford — and make checks with the play clock winding down without skipping a heartbeat.

The depth of knowledge from years of film watching in a football family makes Rees a sounding board composed of solid stuff.

“I’ll ask him, ‘Did you see what I saw?’” Kelly said. “Did you think that was this particular coverage, did you think he should have thrown the ball here? I’ll ask him to kind of validate what I saw, more so than, ‘Hey, do you have a particular play you like here?’ “

There may be less clarity than most would prefer when BCS bowls are in sight. But until evidence to the contrary emerges, Kelly is comfortable with what he orders up at quarterback: a large helping.

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