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Notre Dame Football

Tommy Rees Notebook | Fiesta Bowl Selection

December 5, 2021

On Sunday evening, Notre Dame offensive coordinator Tommy Rees spoke on behalf of the football program as the Fiesta Bowl held a Zoom press conference after announcing the Fighting Irish would play Oklahoma State. 

On Oklahoma State's defense:
"We've heard about Oklahoma State all year. I know a lot of the conversation has been about how strong their defense has been playing. Over the last 10 years or so, when you think of that program, you think offense first. I think Coach (Jim) Knowles has done a great job preparing them. 

"I think they're ranked second in the country on third down and third in the country in total defense. Yesterday was really my first opportunity to sit down and watch them play. I got a little ahead today on some film.

“They present a lot of challenges. They do a lot of different things defensviely and they're very multiple on their front and coverages. They present a great challenge for us and one we're going to have to be prepared for, especially given the time they have to prepare. We're going to have to dive into who they are and how we want to answer some of those issues they present."

On opportunity for youth to show growth of the program against a top defense:
"It gives us a great opportunity offensively to figure out where we're at. This is a barometer game for us where we felt the steady improvement throughout the year and now we get to go against a great defense and see how much we've improved. 

"When you look at Wisconsin and Cincinnati, those were a couple games early on where to be quite frank, we weren't playing our best football offensively. 

"As we got to that point later in the season, we have an opportunity for those guys to go against a great defense, not a good one, but a great defense to see how we stack up." 

On Big 12 football misconceptions:
"When you watch Big 12 football now, you see a lot of really good defense being played. A lot of the new wave of defensive football has been kind of that 3-3-5 structure that you saw from Iowa State in '19 in the bowl game. 

“The conference has been very innovative that way because they've had to stop high-powered offenses. You see a lot of what they've implemented in that conference trickle across college football. 

"I think the defense in that conference is played a very high level over the last two years. We're excited for the challenge. It's not a conference we play a lot. When I was a player, we got to play Oklahoma a couple times and those were great matchups. 

"This is what bowl games are for. You get to play matchups you typically don't get to play. For us to play in this big of a game against an opponent like Oklahoma State who is nationally in the conversation every year, we're excited for that opportunity." 

On Oklahoma State DC Jim Knowles:
"I believe he was at Duke for a little bit. There were some times back when I was a player and when I first got hired, so I remember him at Duke. 

"We don't see a ton of Oklahoma State in crossover where we don't often play a similar schedule. 

"I have followed hi ma little bit this year and obviously, we got a chance to watch him yesterday and a little bit of prep in the last couple of hours here. I know they're multiple in what they do defensviely and present a lot of challenges. 

"The thing that's intriguing when you look at their numbers, they only give up 26 percent on third down. That's an area where if you're not good on third down, it's hard to win games. That's an area where I feel will be critical in our matchup. Obviously, Rodriguez is a great player. They highlighted him yesterday in the broadcast during the game. In total defense, they're third and giving up less than 100 yards rushing this year. There's a lot of challenges Coach Knowles presents. 

"I think he does a great job in the early diagnosis in figuring out what teams do well and having answers for that. I think he's going to play tendencies and make sure he answers for our core principles of offense. We're going to have to understand that and play complementary football." 

On the impact of momentum from Marcus Freeman's hire: 
"You've seen the program and the word rally is used a lot around Notre Dame, but we've seen the program really rally around one another the last five days. I have not been around the team a whole lot since we've been traveling recruiting, but you've seen the videos and reaction. I've had plenty of conversations with guys on the team about the excitement and energy. 

"We haven't felt this in the program before - this excitement and support for one another. They talk about their workouts with Coach (Matt) Balis and how much energy and drive there was through that. 

"You're going to get a team that's extremely hungry and motivated to go out there and play their best football. 

"The other thing about bowl games is it's another opportunity to continue to improve. You get bonus practices and you can develop a lot of young guys. I think we're going to get a lot of competitive practices. Unlike some years when you're prepping for a bowl game, you'll have guys motivated to go out and play their best ball.

"I'm looking forward to the energy this entire week has brought the program and continuing to build off of that." 

On self-scouting:
"It will be very similar. You split the season into two parts—first half and the second half. We'll self-scout very similar to how we did over the bye week. We'll look at tendencies and some areas we need to improve. We'll look at some areas where we've been successful and we'll try to find patterns or trends there and find a few trends you can break." 

On developing a game plan:
"Our process with stay pretty consistent with how it's been all year in terms of how we approach a game plan. I think we have a great staff in place offensively that has worked in a cohesive way all year. 

"Coach Freeman being head coach, the conversations with him during the week about playing complementary football and understanding situationally his preference may be different than Coach Kelly's were. 

"Thats' something over the next couple weeks we'll have conversations on to make sure we're playing as an entire team, not just three sides of the ball. 

"I'm excited to get to work and to work with Marcus. It's only been a week, but it's felt like a month in the last seven days. I think as an entire program, we're very eager for this opportunity and very eager to get back into football mode." 

On bowl prep:
"Really, the only change is you probably don't dive right into game planning your first couple of practices. We'll be on the road all week recruiting and we'll come off the road and start practice. There won't be a whole lot of time for the staff to get together beforehand. 

"We'll certainly have some opportunities to get some developmental periods in for the younger guys in the program and people are either redshirting or still in the developmental phase. 

"Bowl prep really gives you the opportunity to continue build your roster from the top down. Then you get into the game plan as you head into the last two weeks or ten days headed into the game." 

On S Kyle Hamilton:
"A lot of those questions, I think Marcus is prepared to field tomorrow. I'd really like to focus on our preparation for this game. I don't have the medical update for Kyle at this time." 

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