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Alabama expected to hire Notre Dame offensive coordinator Tommy Rees

Tommy Rees was Notre Dame's offensive coordinator for the past three seasons.
Tommy Rees was Notre Dame's offensive coordinator for the past three seasons. (Jeff Douglas, Inside ND Sports)

Fourteen months after Tommy Rees gave an impassioned speech to Notre Dame’s football players about his decision to stay as the Irish offensive coordinator rather than follow head coach Brian Kelly to LSU, the former Notre Dame quarterback will be taking a job with one of Kelly’s newest rivals, Alabama.

Rees, who started his Notre Dame coaching career in 2017 as a graduate assistant quarterbacks coach and became the offensive coordinator in 2020, will be named as Alabama’s next offensive coordinator by legendary head coach Nick Saban, according to multiple reports.

The South Bend Tribune's Mike Berardino first reported Rees accepted the Alabama position. Rees was spotted by reporters Thursday leaving South Bend on an Alabama plane and arriving in Tuscaloosa to consider the move.

Rees replaces Bill O'Brien, who recently left Alabama to become offensive coordinator with the NFL's New England Patriots.




The departure of Rees means Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman’s current coaching staff includes only two assistant coaches he inherited from Kelly’s 2021 staff: cornerbacks coach Mike Mickens and safeties coach Chris O’Leary.

The 30-year-old Rees was set to lead the Irish into the 2023 season with perhaps the best quarterback he’s coached at Notre Dame, thanks to the graduate transfer addition of Sam Hartman from Wake Forest. The ACC’s all-time leader in career touchdowns passes (110) enrolled at Notre Dame in January after playing five seasons for the Demon Deacons.

Rivals ranks Hartman, who threw for 7,929 yards and 77 touchdowns with 26 interceptions the past two seasons, as the No. 22 overall prospect to enter the transfer portal since the start of the 2022 season. Hartman won’t get the chance to play in an offense designed by Rees at Notre Dame. Freeman will be tasked with naming an offensive coordinator who won’t give Hartman a reason to second-guess his decision.

Because he’s a graduate student, Hartman could choose to leave Notre Dame following the spring semester to play elsewhere in 2023, though that doesn’t mean it’s likely to happen. Hartman tweeted a video of himself working out in the Guglielmino Athletics Complex on Friday evening. Hartman and Notre Dame’s three other enrolled graduate transfers are scheduled to speak with reporters next Friday.

Rees’ time as a Notre Dame coach has been defined by him trying to get the most out of quarterbacks with less than elite traits. He helped push former three-star quarterback Ian Book into the starting lineup and become the winningest quarterback in program history with 30 victories in 35 starts across four seasons.

Book became a fourth-round NFL Draft pick by the New Orleans Saints in 2021. Book has since been cut and spent the 2022-23 season as the third-string quarterback for the Super Bowl-bound Philadelphia Eagles.

Wisconsin castoff Jack Coan, a former four-star recruit, won 11 games for Notre Dame in 2021. Then in 2022, former four-star recruit Tyler Buchner was positioned as the future face of the program as a sophomore starting quarterback before he lost his first two starts and was sidelined for the rest of the regular season with a shoulder injury.

Undersized Drew Pyne, a former four-star recruit, replaced Buchner and managed to finish the season ranked No. 20 nationally in passing efficiency. But Pyne sprinted to the transfer portal once informed that Notre Dame would be looking to add competition to the quarterback room in the offseason.

Though widely considered a sharp mind across college football, Rees didn’t always have the results to match it. His biggest inconsistencies came on the recruiting trail and a sense for what his offenses could accomplish from the outset.

Five games into the 2021 season, the Irish were entertaining a change at quarterback. Six games into the 2022 season, Notre Dame lost three games in which it failed to score more than 21 points and averaged 15.

It’s hard to imagine a fanbase as demanding as Alabama’s and a head coach with as high expectations as Saban that Rees will be given as much time to course-correct early in his tenure.


Rees’ best season as Notre Dame’s offensive coordinator was arguably his first. Notre Dame finished the season, in which it made a run to the College Football Playoff semifinal that was ended by Alabama, ranked No. 24 in the FBS in rushing offense, No. 30 in scoring offense, No. 43 in team passing efficiency and No. 58 in passing offense.

The 2021 season was the only under Rees in which Notre Dame’s passing offense was more prolific (No. 20 in passing offense) than efficient (No. 33 in passing efficiency). It was Notre Dame’s highest-scoring season of Rees’ coordinator tenure (35.2 points per game for a tie at No. 19), though the Irish struggled to run the ball (143.8 yards per game for the No. 83 rushing offense).

Notre Dame’s improvements in rushing offense in 2022 (ranked No. 35 with 189.1 yards per game) was countered by passing offense ranked No. 98 for averaging only 207.1 yards per game.

Freeman shouldn’t have trouble trying to find a replacement as the Irish have a respected staff of offensive assistants in place, a star quarterback on the roster and a star quarterback committed to the 2024 class in CJ Carr, proven talent at running back and along the offensive line and a talented group of younger receivers.

Tight ends coach Gerad Parker is the only assistant on Notre Dame’s staff with offensive coordinator experience — from 2020-21 at West Virginia — so it seems likely that Freeman would bring in an outside candidate as offensive coordinator, though Parker would merit consideration at the very least.

Because Freeman’s a defensive coach and former linebacker who admittedly had catching up to do as an offensive mind, this could be the most important hiring decision of his Notre Dame tenure.


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