SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Tommy Rees, the resourceful Notre Dame quarterback who reinvented himself as a dynamic young offensive coordinator at his alma mater, is leaving for a new challenge.
The team has been informed that Rees is leaving his alma mater for the same position at Alabama, a person with direct knowledge of the situation told the South Bend Tribune. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the hire has not yet been officially announced.
Rees, 30, was a fallback choice after University of Washington coordinator Ryan Grubb turned down Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide earlier in the week. After rejecting overtures from LSU and Miami the previous offseason, Rees decided the time was right to make the jump to Tuscaloosa.
Rees, who went 23-8 as the Irish starting quarterback during his playing career from 2010-13, has spent all but three of the past 13 football seasons on Notre Dame’s campus. Rees made brief stops at Northwestern (2015) and with the NFL’s San Diego Chargers (2016) before former Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly hired him to tutor quarterbacks on Jan. 24, 2017.
Having starred at Lake Forest High School in Chicago’s northern suburbs, Rees was still four months shy of turning 25 when he joined the Irish coaching staff.
After three seasons apprenticing under offensive coordinator Chip Long, Rees was named as Long’s replacement shortly after the veteran coach was fired ahead of the Camping World Bowl in December 2019. Notably, Long had met with Saban to discuss a vacant offensive coordinator role in January of that year.
In Rees’ three seasons as the Notre Dame play caller, the Irish went a combined 30-8 and averaged 33.5 points per game. That was good for national ranks of 30th, tied for 19th and tied for 41st in scoring offense.
All-America tight end Michael Mayer, a projected NFL first-round draft pick in April, rewrote the school’s record book for production at his position with Rees calling the shots from his perch in the coach’s box.
Rees, handling the quarterback coaching role as well, managed to coax solid play from a string of disparate signal callers. His three seasons as offensive coordinator saw Ian Book, Wisconsin graduate transfer Jack Coan, undersized Drew Pyne and dual-threat Tyler Buchner thrive to varying degrees.
The 2022 season, which saw Notre Dame lose Buchner to injury amid an 0-2 start, brought out the best in Rees’ ability to adjust on the fly. Pyne went 8-2 as the fill-in starter and finished 20th nationally in passing efficiency but later transferred to Arizona State.
Record-setting quarterback Sam Hartman, the sixth-year super senior from Wake Forest, was brought in via the transfer portal in early January.
Book, a fourth-round draft pick of the New Orleans Saints in 2021, is headed to the Feb. 12 Super Bowl as the third-string backup to Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts. Before transferring to Oklahoma, Hurts started his college career at Alabama (2016-18).
The Crimson Tide haven’t finished out of the top six nationally in scoring offense since 2017. Under former Penn State and Houston Texans coach Bill O’Brien, who coordinated the Alabama offense the past two seasons, the Tide finished sixth (39.9 points) and tied for fourth (41.1) in national scoring offense.
From 2018-20, Alabama’s talent factory cranked out high-scoring offenses that ranged between 45.6 and 48.5 points per game. The Tide finished no lower than third nationally in scoring offense in that span.
Two of the past three Heisman Trophy winners starred at Alabama: wide receiver DeVonta Smith (2020) and quarterback Bryce Young (2021). Since Saban’s arrival in 2007, running backs Mark Ingram (2009) and Derrick Henry (2015) have also claimed the Heisman.
Hurts, playing for Oklahoma, was the Heisman runner-up in 2019.
Notre Dame’s Heisman Trophy drought dates to 1987 and wide receiver Tim Brown. The Irish, still looking for their first national title since 1988, fell to Saban’s Tide in the 2012 BCS Championship (42-14) and again in 2020 in the College Football Playoff semifinals (31-14).
Follow Notre Dame football writer Mike Berardino on Twitter @MikeBerardino
This article originally appeared on ND Insider: Notre Dame OC Tommy Rees leaving for same job at Alabama