2020 Notre Dame Football Preview

Digital Edition

Blue & Gold Illustrated: 2020 Notre Dame Football Preview

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Page 43 of 163

42 ✦ BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED 2020 FOOTBALL PREVIEW BY TODD D. BURLAGE B y no fault of his own, Tommy Rees faced an unexpected and challeng- ing orientation during his first few months as a rookie offensive co- ordinator. His proverbial baptism by fire became a baptism by virus. Hired to his new post Jan. 14, Rees had to embrace a new normal with the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent cancellation of es- sentially all Notre Dame spring practices and most of the traditional summer workouts. The changes forced him into an unfamiliar setting and some unusual methods for his on-the-job training. "To look at this period as lost time or a hindrance would be a mistake," Rees said. "Everyone is in the same boat right now. We need to look at this as an opportunity to con- tinue to improve, to continue to implement the things we need to." Through Internet video-sharing platforms such as Zoom, FaceTime, Skype and others, Rees remained in constant contact with his players after campus closed in mid-March. He coached and taught individual players, while periodically gathering his entire roster on offense for online briefings. "I just felt like it was a good time to en- ergize the group and remind people of the mission that we have and what we are trying to accomplish," said Rees, who admitted to some awkwardness during delivery of a 30-minute power-point presentation via computer camera instead of in-person. "This time is going to directly impact how we per- form come this summer or fall, whenever we are back together. "Our guys really responded well to that. They understand that there is a lot of work to be done right now." Hamstrung by distance and isolation, Rees became creative in both his teaching and learning methods. • From a coaching standpoint, Rees ex- plained that he honed his future play-calling duties by revisiting previous Notre Dame games and making mock play calls through- out the broadcast. "What's the situation, what would I call?" Rees explained of his thought process dur- ing these reviews. "To be great at something you have to practice, and to be really great at something you have to practice it a lot. "That's my way of practicing and my way of preparing myself." • From an implementation standpoint, Rees said the Irish coaches used every means to best ready their players under difficult circumstances. "I do feel like progress is being made both from a technical offensive standpoint and also with the culture that we are trying to build," Rees explained. • From a player fitness standpoint, trusting the home workout regimen outlined by Irish director of football performance Matt Balis — and the players' adherence to it — was the only option. "We coach such great kids and great peo- ple that we don't face a lot of challenges other schools are in terms of guys getting their work in and wanting to do things the right way," Rees said. "There is not a lot of extra pushing that we have to do to make OFFENSE OVERVIEW AN UNUSUAL ORIENTATION Familiarity and relationships guided new offensive coordinator Tommy Rees through pandemic preparations Prior to getting named the offensive coordinator this winter, Rees had served as the program's quarter- backs coach for three seasons and started 31 games under center during his Notre Dame playing career. PHOTO COURTESY FIGHTING IRISH MEDIA

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