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Notre Dame Football

Memory masters: Book, Rees forge key formula for Irish

December 18, 2020

Ian Book is OK with having flashbacks.

Matter of fact, his offensive coordinator and position coach, Tommy Rees, encourages Book to experience deja vu.

It's part of the formula for success for Book, second-ranked Notre Dame's record-setting quarterback, and Rees, the Fighting Irish's first-year offensive play-caller and former Notre Dame quarterback.

“I think that's a huge part of the quarterback game is being able to recall certain plays and visually see them,” said Book, the Irish's all-time wins leader with 30 victories as the starting quarterback. “I do it a lot with (Rees), I try to keep working on it. It's something that I practice. He's better than me at it, I give him credit where it's due. His memory is unbelievable. I'm working on it all the time.”

Rees owns 23 wins as Notre Dame's starting quarterback from his career spanning the 2010-13 seasons; Rees also is the architect this season of the Fighting Irish offense that's part of the team's 10-0 ledger.

Notre Dame faces Clemson, one spot behind the Irish at No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings, Saturday afternoon at the ACC Championship game in Charlotte, N.C. (4 p.m., ABC).

While much of the focus is the return of Clemson's Trevor Lawrence for this rematch of Notre Dame's 47-40, double-overtime win Nov. 7 in South Bend, Indiana, the Book-Rees combo predicates much of the Irish's chances for a potential second win against the Tigers – and guaranteeing a berth in the Playoffs.

“He does a really good job of communicating what's important,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said of Rees. “He doesn't waste time on things that will bog you down. He is able to get to the point and eliminate a lot of miscommunication that occurs sometimes.

"The art of communication is steeped in its ability to reach people in many different forms. That's at the strength of what Tommy does."

With Book, Rees communicates his pupil's plays from this season, and previous autumns, as well as Rees' own work under center as one of Kelly's first signal-callers at Notre Dame.

“We'll watch film from Day 1,” said Book, who's lost just three games as the Irish starter and accounted for more than 9,600 yards' total offense with 87 touchdowns in his career, “and he'll say, 'I threw a pass just like this in whatever year against Purdue at Purdue.' And he'll go into XOS (film database system) and find it and play it, immediately. I think it just helps me learn and helps all the other quarterbacks learn, just to see it visually. So his memory is unbelievable, and it just makes it that much easier to learn. And he's smart and he can go find it on a computer immediately. Pull it up, good plays, bad plays, he doesn't forget anything.

“And I'll throw a certain throw and he'll say, 'Oh yeah, that's just like the throw in '18 against Stanford.' Helps me learn a ton.”

Rees encourages Book not to limit his visualizations to only Notre Dame games.

“He tells me all the time how important it is to have that memory and be able to go back a few years and understand plays and talk about it and remember those plays,” Book said. “He's told me before just go back and watch random games.

“It's good for you as a quarterback. I work on it all the time.”

On Saturday against Clemson, the Irish are hoping for a little more deja vu all over again.

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