Notre Dame has promoted quarterbacks coach Tommy Rees to its vacant offensive coordinator position, the Irish announced Tuesday. Also promoted was running backs coach Lance Taylor, who will become the running game coordinator.
Rees, who played quarterback for the Irish from 2010 to 2013, becomes one of the youngest coordinators at the FBS level at just 27 years old. He was the quarterbacks coach for three seasons, overseeing the development of Ian Book, who set a program record for completion percentage in 2018 at 68.2% and in 2019 threw for 34 touchdowns and just six interceptions.
Head coach Brian Kelly said the Irish conducted a national search for a new offensive coordinator after Chip Long was dismissed following the regular-season finale against Stanford.
“Tom’s ability to connect with our players and staff and accepting and embracing the incredible opportunity in being the offensive coordinator at Notre Dame made him the right choice," Kelly said in a statement. "While Tom’s leadership ability and knowledge of the game was evident, it was his humble approach to his own development and desire to continue to grow and learn that were also key factors that set him apart in a talented pool of candidates.”
Rees has always been the front-runner for the position and I would've been surprised if the Irish picked anyone else, especially after Rees did a good job of calling plays during his trial run at the Camping World Bowl. The former Irish quarterback reportedly has a terrific relationship with Book and if the Irish are going to make a run back to the College Football Playoff in 2020, Book will have to raise his play another level. Putting his trusted quarterbacks coach in charge of the offense signals, among other things, that Book's development is a top priority. Within minutes of the official announcement, Book expressed excitement on social media.
"Let's go!," he wrote on Twitter. "Excited to get back to work."
Taylor came to the Irish at the start of the 2019 season from the Carolina Panthers, where he was the wide receivers coach for two seasons. He was the running backs coach at Stanford from 2014 to 2016. Taylor led an Irish rushing attack that averaged 4.9 yards per carry despite an injury-plagued campaign from presumptive preseason starter Jafar Armstrong. Tony Jones Jr. ran for 100 yards five times and had an 84-yard run in the bowl game, the longest in Irish bowl history. Before the season, I would've been extremely skeptical that Jones would not be back for a fifth year, but he was good enough in 2019 to depart for the NFL. Taylor deserves a good chunk of credit for that and it's exciting to imagine him working with top recruit Chris Tyree, the best running back prospect the Irish have brought in during Kelly's tenure.
“Lance’s ability to gain consensus within the staff by implementing a running game plan that fits our personnel and is tactically and technically sound makes him a great fit for this position.” Kelly said in the statement.