After making a statement on May 28 that all three of his quarterbacks would have a chance to compete for the starting job in the fall, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly named Tommy Rees as his starting quarterback.
While Irish fans pick their jaws off the floor they should applaud Kelly. This was a great move.
Kelly made the surprise announcement at a speaking engagement in Grand Rapids, Mich on June 5, according to the South Bend Tribune's Eric Hansen:
We have Tommy Rees, who is an established player, and he will be our starter. We think Andrew Hendrix and Malik Zaire can contribute, but Tommy will be our starter.
What has happened in the last eight days that would cause Kelly to reverse his decision on naming his starter?
This might have to do with Notre Dame losing out on a 4-star quarterback. On May 28 Kyle Allen announced his final five schools of interest: Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and UCLA. On June 3, Allen made his choice: Texas A&M.
Allen planned on taking an unofficial visit to Notre Dame on June 10 or 11, according to the South Bend Tribune, More:
Allen will make the trip after competing in the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge in Chicago on June 7-9.
Allen, considered one of the top pro-style quarterbacks in the country, has emerged as one of Notre Dame's top quarterback targets in the 2014 class following the transfer of Gunner Kiel. He's ranked as the No. 4 pro-style quarterback by both Rivals.com and 247Sports.com. Rivals ranks Allen as the No. 27 recruit overall, and 247Sports slates him at No. 47.
Allen could still take that visit.
By naming Rees as his starting quarterback, Kelly has now opened up the 2014 quarterback competition. Had Kelly named incoming freshman Malik Zaire as his starter, the prospect of Zaire holding that spot for at least three years would have put off a lot of quarterback prospects.
Kelly not naming a starting quarterback prior to June 5 was a questionable move at best. Prospects like to do the math and figure out when they will have a legitimate shot at starting. An unnamed starter and a highly-regarded incoming freshman could give prospects in the class of 2014 pause. Naming a senior as a starting quarterback will whet their interest.
Texas A&M's Heisman winning quarterback Johnny Manziel will probably declare for the 2014 NFL Draft. Allen knows he can challenge for the starting spot next year. He committed to a school that at the time, had a clearer big picture than Notre Dame's.
But Notre Dame's big picture has suddenly gone high-def.
Naming Rees sends a clear message to all recruits. Rees will have exhausted his eligibility after this season ends. He, unlike Zaire, will not be locked in for next year. Nobody is locked in. And most importantly, here is more stability and one less question mark to a program that has seen a rash of transfers.
This can not be a coincidence that Kelly made this abrupt announcement just two days after Allen committed to Texas A&M and two days before Allen was set to compete in the Rivals 100 Five-Star Challenge in Chicago.
Chicago is just a one-and-a-half hour drive from Notre Dame's campus. Aside from the fall—when the turning of leaves paints a spectacular campus—spring in South Bend makes a great impression. It is usually not hot and/or muggy.
With the quarterback situation seemingly settled and one of his top targets so close, Kelly's recruiting pitch to Allen has taken more shape. It holds more promise.
Allen still may not flip.
But Kelly has now made Notre Dame a much more appealing destination for elite quarterbacks in the class of 2014.