Quick Hitters: Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football Offensive Coordinator Tommy Rees Spring Practice Press Conference
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Quick Hitters: Tommy Rees April 22 Press Conference

Notre Dame is less than two weeks away from the Blue-Gold Game. On Thursday, the Irish held the 12th of their 15 spring practices, and offensive coordinator Tommy Rees spoke with reporters afterward via Zoom.

Here are some of the topics he addressed.

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On The Passing Of Lou Somogyi

“With the news this week, I just wanted to offer my condolences to everybody on the call. The passing of Lou, I’m sure, it’s weighed heavy on all you guys, as well as many of us here that have been part of this Notre Dame community for a while now.

“I just wanted to thank you guys for being here, offer my condolences and, obviously, my thoughts and prayers are with you all and Lou’s family. I didn’t want to start this thing off without recognizing him.

“I know there’s a scholarship going into his name. That’s a great, great thing and honors a great man. So I just want to say thank you to all you guys and that we’re thinking of you and praying for you. I hope to see you guys soon when all this stuff clears up.”

On Running Back Kyren Williams’ Offseason Development

“For Kyren, specifically, it’s how many different ways can we get him involved in the offense. We’re going to add even more to his plate. We’re going to see him line up in other areas of the field. I think we have three running backs that can all play for us right now and can all give us benefit.

“So it’s our job to get the best players on the field all the time. For Kyren, because he has an innate ability in the passing game, it’s going to be how do we expand his role to maximize even more touches? To get them into more space?

“We’re doing a lot of things right now, playing around with him and the other backs, whether there’s two of them in the game, or we’re lining them up outside of the backfield. That’s the next progression in terms of how we want to play this year.”

On Tight End Michael Mayer

“In terms of Mike’s ability, I think he’s really only scratching the surface. Last year was only a brief glimpse of how good this kid can be.

“There’s something to say about the way he works, the tenacity that he plays with and the edge that he plays with. Obviously, he’s extremely talented, but there’s a reason why he's a great player and the mentality is there. I would say the same thing about Kyren. Those two really have the same type of mentality where they're going to compete every single opportunity they have, and they're not going to let it slow them down.

“For us, it’s all about trying to isolate matchups for Mike. How do we get them in a situation where they cannot help? Where can we get him one-on-one? Because it really doesn't matter if it's a corner, then he's gonna have a size advantage. If it’s a safety or a linebacker, he’s going to have an agility advantage. We're going to do as many things as we can to try to isolate him where they can't help with the second player.”

On Improving Red Zone Efficiency

“Obviously, we want to be more efficient there. If we can get our red zone level to where it was on third down, that type of efficiency in the red zone is ultimately going to lead to more points. We can’t settle for field goals. We all know that.

“In terms of studying what we did, I think the biggest takeaways from that are one, when we were at the best in the red zone, we were able to run the football. When we struggled in the red zone, it was because we were trying to force the ball into the end zone. There are completions to be had that happen in front of the end line. If you’re on the 10-yard line, and you get seven yards, you just took 70 percent of the field that's left and took it away. That’s a huge gain from the 10.

“There are opportunities to continue to push the ball in front of the end line and allow our best players [to make plays]. It could be a run after the catch, and then we’re down on the two and now we're in a great set on second down.

“For myself, it’s about how do we continue to balance ourselves in the red zone without feeling like every throw needs to get us a score. There are some other things that are very technical and schematic that I don't necessarily want to share at this moment.

“But at the end of the day, the other thing that we did when we were successful down there is we found opportunities to get our best players matched up one-on-one. That's something that we're going to continue to strive to do.”

On Wide Receiver Development

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“In terms of the wide receiver group, I think when you look at the spring, it's been a wave a little bit here. Early in spring, I felt like the whole group was making plays, stepping up and everybody was healthy. There was a freshness to them and a lot of excitement. As spring goes on, there are some days in the middle of spring practice where you start to slip a little bit. But I would say those veterans have continued to push the group in terms of the direction that we want to go.

“I think Lawrence Keys has probably had as good of a spring as anybody on offense. He's shown the ability to stretch the field, make explosive plays and that was one of the things that we challenged him with. We're gonna put you in opportunities to make plays down the field, it's time to go make them. Some of that is continuing to develop his strength. Some of that is just understanding what we're trying to do and how we're trying to do it.

“A guy like Avery Davis is the leader of that group. He's been extremely steady, someone that is dependable and we can count on. Braden Lenzy, the last couple of days, has really come on. I'm excited about the trust that we're building there in order for him to be in an expanded role and hand him more on his plate.

“As for the other guys, Joe Wilkins has been pretty steady throughout spring, but we need his game to go to the next extra level. For the young guys, Jordan Johnson missed a couple of practices, that's gonna slow his development down. Lorenzo Styles has certainly done some good things. But just like any senior [in high school], there’s a new speed, there are new expectations, there’s a level of detail that goes into playing at this level that those guys just need to learn.

“The one thing I will say about our receiver group is we have speed out there. We have a bunch of guys that can stretch the field, a bunch of guys that can run. So we can pair some of those packages together to get the ball down the field, and then create space with the width of the field to get them into the open field and into one-on-one opportunities.”

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