Uncertainty Still Surrounds Quarterback Position

Notre Dame, IN – With the second full spring practice season under Brian Kelly officially concluded, the quarterback position for Notre Dame remains as cloudy as the weather in South Bend yesterday for the 82nd annual Blue-Gold Game.

dayne crist tommy rees
Neither Dayne Crist or Tommy Rees looked sharp in this weekend's Blue-Gold Game. (Photo - Robin Alam/Icon SMI)

Heading into Saturday’s game, the plan was for Tommy Rees and Dayne Crist to only play a few series before giving way to Andrew Hendrix and Everett Golson.  Neither quarterback was particularly sharp early on, however, and both ended up playing into the second quarter to the surprise of color commentator Mike Mayock.

The weather conditions didn’t do either Crist or Rees any favors, but at the same time, the weaknesses of both were evident in their limited action.

Crist played well at times last season before injuring his knee against Tulsa, but consistency and accuracy plagued him in his nine starts.  The same issues were present yesterday with Crist throwing a few passes in the dirt and struggling to find much consistency.

Rees on the other was pretty accurate but didn’t show much in terms of arm strength despite rattling off an impressive four game winning streak to end the season for the Irish.  That lack of arm strength was seen yesterday again with the few downfield throws Rees attempted.  Rees also showed some questionable decision making resulting in a Lo Wood interception.

Notre Dame’s other two scholarship quarterbacks – Hendrix and Golson – saw a lot of action yesterday and both had their moments, but both also looked raw and in need of some more work before being ready to seriously challenge either Crist or Rees for the starting job this fall.

Golson displayed his athleticism and it’s easy to get excited about his potential to run Brian Kelly’s offense, but he looked very much like an 18 year old who would be getting ready for the prom in a few weeks if he didn’t enroll early at Notre Dame.  Golson was quick to run, even when the pressure on him was more perceived than real.  He also displayed some sloppy ball handling habits like not moving the ball to his outside arm when running out of bounds.

Still, it was clear that Golson has a lot of potential and could conceivably have a package developed for him as a change of pace quarterback.

Hendrix’s speed and athleticism were on full display as well with the sophomore to be running in a pair of touchdowns.  Hendrix threw the ball well too completing 10 of 16 passes.  Like Golson, he is still very raw at this point though and it might be a stretch for him to seriously challenge for the starting spot this year.  The talent is definitely there though.

For now though, it looks like the real competition for the starting job against South Florida will come down to Crist and Rees.  Who that ends up being is still very much in the air as neither did enough to separate from the other during the spring.

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  1. Today is draft day for the NFL. Reading through the sports pages of my local paper, I noticed that they had the top 100 rated players for the draft listed.

    Anyone want to guess how many were from ND?

    ONE !

    Junior Kyle Rudolph.

    Hopefully, next year at this time, Coach Kelly and his staff will have changed all that.

    1. That was the problem with the previous coaching staff, they never developed a player. I did see that Robert Hughes is being listed as a fullback. I hope he gets drafted, I liked his style of running and he is a good kid. I also think AA will make a good 3rd down back.

  2. I wasn’t impressed with Crist or Rees during Blue Gold and believe the future is with Hendrix or Golson. Having control of a huddle is nice, knowing the plays is nice, but demonstrating by doing on the field is more important and I am not seeing that with Crist or Rees. Also, there is a certain hunger in the younger two that I don’t see in Crist or Rees. Yes, I know they won four in a row to close out the season but in my estimation they should have won more. I think most would agree ND is not going to the BCS Championship game. With that in mind I think it’s better to move forward with your future, Hendrix or Golson. I happen to think Golson offers more of a running threat and might be the best choice.

  3. Not to stray from the subject but can some one tell me why everyone seems to regard Gunner Kiel as a better QB prospect than Zeke Pike. In every highlight video I see of Pike he leads his receivers perfectly, he’s mobile and cool headed, he runs well and is by all accounts a great leader. Add to that he’s two inches taller and twenty five pounds heavier and a 3.3 GPA. Then I watch Gunner and almost invariably his receivers have to wait for the ball, he seldom hits a receiver in stride and as I said he’s smaller. Yet ND made an offer to Gunner as soon as they could and ignored Pike until he wound up committing to the national champs at Auburn. Is it just because his uncle played a ND? Can anyone say Montana at Montana? IMO the only reason to go after a recruit is ability.

  4. The best part of the B-G was feeling like there’s a coach with a plan who’s building a program. Fans are free to have knee-jerk reactions to one glorified scrimmage, but you get the sense that BK knows what he’s doing.
    With the defense that’ll be in place, even if you trotted out the Crist of last year, you’ve got a better team. We’re 3-0 and 5-1 last year with a decent defense (only Stanford beating us down). Now Crist (and the whole offense) has an extra year and they will be better. Crist can run the offense with the tempo BK likes. No knock on Rees, but with Crist you can get some early and quick leads, but now with a defense that will shut down the opponent. That gives you the opportunity to give Hendrix game experience. Golson should redshirt and develop. If Crist goes down, then you’ve got the experienced Rees to give you a shot at a win (a luxury we didn’t have against Michigan or Tulsa last year).

  5. Reese))) love him.. how can you not… he was thrown into the fire and he showed tremendous amount of poise and CLASS… He played great for a TRUE FRESHMEN….


    Crist is the clear cut QB. He the best QB with the exception of a little bit of touch and If kelly rains in the offense a little and coaches like he did the last 4 games Crist will flourish and the OFfense will be even better that what it was because Crist is Better….

    I personally think Hendrix and golson will pass reese even though Reese is the front runner right now…. with that said if we were stuck with only Reese I would glady go into the season with him/

    Rb situation… Wood/Gray/ Cam and Texas frosh…. hopefully is enough for the season… the rB from texas may be the real deal and that is one position which can impact immediately as a freshmen..

  6. Scav hit the nail on the head about the ND football this season…

    The Crist injury might have been and hopefully was Coach Kelly’s n ND’s turning point. He was forced to change his philosophy. The philosophy which got him the job at ND as an offensive Juggernau. He was forced to coached great football the last four games of the seaon with a True freshmen. It is great and Unique for a guy in his position to be humble and sharp enough to take a step back, not be hard headed, and completely change his philosophy…. AND be able to do all that and win football games…. The defense made huge adjustments too. I was calling for his head after the Navy/tulsa game because of his comment that he will never change….. Someone on this site ensured me he would chabge.. I can’t remember if it was Jack or someone else, but the man was right…

    I just fear that he will revert back to pre crist injury football and not coach winning football like he did at the end of the season…. Run Game/ Floyd/ simplfy and execute…. GO ND!!!!!!!

    1. I share a different opinion than most here…..I feel that Crist looked like Crist, pretty much the same that
      I witnessed last season. Hendrix and Gholson were close but I give the nod to Hendrix simply because
      he had to play opposite of Aaron Lynch who absolutely blew him up 2x’s. After the big hits he still
      completed his drives for TD’s.
      GO IRISH

  7. crist was running the first team offense at the b/g game with cierre, riddick, jones, eifert and goodman. it was a pretty clear statement that crist is the guy right now.

    i don’t think there is anyway rees can play his way into that starting spot…it is up to crist to play his own way out of the starting spot. kelly may be saying differently but actions speak louder than words.

    golson looks like the qb of the future but will get himself injured at 160lbs. i hope kelly doesn’t waste a year of his eligibility with packages. i would much rather see hendrix out there in a run heavy package.

    i was very unimpressed with the offense as a whole. i know it was just a scrimmage, but i saw much of the same out there. errant passes, indecision, bad timing…this sh*t better get worked out or we will be biting our nails all season long.

    1. I don’t worry about the offense. As Kelly has stated, he can manufacture offense, but he can’t manufacture defense. And that’s the key. If the defense plays as is it should, 21-24 points a game will be enough.

      There’s this idea that in order to win you need to score 40+ points a game. That’s true – IF your defense sucks.

      I think a more efficient offense is all we need. And by efficient I don’t mean scoring 40+ per game. I mean moving the ball between the 20’s, taking time off the clock, controlling the game, being efficient when in the red zone and not turning it over. I’d much rather see that offense than one slinging it all over the field, using trick plays, forcing throws, etc.

  8. Crist is the guy. I would be shocked if he’s not starting this fall. I do believe however that there may be a wildcat type package for Golson, similar to what Urban Meyer did with Tebow his freshman year. Obviously they are different types of QBs, but Golson will bring the added dimension to throw out of the wildcat that Riddick lacks. Could be a good weapon a couple times a game this year.

    1. Agreed, but Kelly said himself, his job at Cincy was to fill the stands and you do that with a dynamic offense.

      He is going to put together a plan that will fit the players and he has seem something last year tthat worked.

  9. Whoever ends up starting I have full confidence that the coaching staff will pick the right guy. I DO think scav has a pretty realistic picture of what BK is thinking though. I just want us to win a lot of games and bring out all of the haters.

  10. All you have been hearing all spring is that Kelly is going to design the system around the players rather than having the players try and fit the system. He understands that at ND, all he has to do is win and it doesn’t matter if his team is hitting 50 a game. He also understands that high powered offenses puts people in the stands, but defense win championships. Look at who he recruited last year and who is committed this year, stud defensive players. He doesn’t need to fill the stands, he needs to win and win big at ND.

    He is not going to start Hendrix or Golson because he doesn’t need to. He found out he could run a more physical style of the spread last year and that his QB does not need to carry the team. Right now, he just needs a QB that understands the offense and can manage the game. He has said that Crist understands the offense better than anyone, that is why I think he will get the nod over Rees. Rees is the perfect back-up for this team and because ND has him, they don’t have to be so careful with Crist.

    We will eventually see the high powered spread that he is know for when Crist and Rees are gone. Once it is here, it will stay because he will recruit guys that are built for it. But for now, he knows that this year can be special because of the defense, so he is not going to risk it with Golson or Hendrix. Like I said in an earlier post, I think we will see spread packages with Hendrix and Golson will sit and learn this year. I think Crist gets the nod over Rees because of his knowledge of the offense and Rees will be our more than dependable back-up.

    1. Scav,
      Lets no sell Crist short. He showed signs of greatness last year, it just wasn’t consistant. The BC game and MSU game he looked lights out, but you can also say that Navy game he was horrible. I saw the same inconsistancy in Jimmy Clausen his 1st and 2nd year.

      1. Not really selling him short, I just don’t think he is a perfect fit for the offense that Kelly is know for. I believe his is going to be fantastic in the offense we saw Rees run last year. However, because of the games you mentioned, we know he can sling it as well.

        I also agree with you about the inconsistancy as well. He was not only learning a new offense, but how to read defenses as well. He will be a pleasant surprise this year if he remains healthy.

  11. The weather probably had a little to do with Rees over throwing and Christ under throwing but I do think that come this fall Christ will be the starter just because of his leadership and Hendrix will eventually be the backup. I would like to Golson redshirted even though he has some great athleticism and a rifle for an arm. Getting a year under BKs system would really help him. I feel bad for Rees but I think he is going to be the odd man out.

    1. IowaND,

      I agree with you. I think Rees is just no the athelete these other QB’s are. Rees reminds me of Levechhio.

  12. As I look at the QB situation, I think last year was the tale of two seasons. Early in the season, Kelly thought that he had to score 50 points a game. He even said that at C. Michigan and Cincy, he had to get fans in the seats and you do that with a dynamic offense. However, after the Tulsa game, he realized he didn’t need to put on an offensive foot to the floor gameplan each week, all he had to do was win.

    So, by simplifing everything and commiting to a more phyiscal style of offense, he could manage Rees and the game much better. The results were a 4-0 finish and a change in Kelly’s philosophy. He said he could manufacture an offense with anyone, so they went recruiting and they solidified the defense.

    So, what is my point? Crist will not have to carry the whole offense on his back this year and will be able to do the same things that Rees did last year with a more phyical type of offense. What we saw over the last 4 games is what we are going to see this fall. Crist will start and Rees will back him up. There will be a lot of play-action passes and more running with Wood and Gray as chance of pace backs. I think they will have some spread packages with Hendrix and Golson will sit this year out. I believe he is going to go with experience over ability this year.

    Kelly will slowly work his way back to his version of the spread over the next few years, but he knows he has a style of play that will be successful with Crist and Rees for the time being. What will this team be like with a BCS type defense and the high octane spread that Kelly is known for? A lot of great things are on the horizon for ND, but in the meantime, watch for a team that plays similar to what we saw at the end year, which wasn’t so bad to watch.

    1. Scav,

      Excellent analysis. The one thing people forget is that receivers not being in the right spot cause the QB to have problems. I think this year you will see a different Crist. Also, people forget he ran a drop back spread in high school and ran the football. I think the knees are fine and he will be a stronger runner. The offense ran a lot better when they let Crist run. If he gets hurt you have Rees.

      1. Jack –

        Havent seen any drop back spread offense being run by BK – 85% is shotgun which is why the emphasis was on Cave to deliver as a long snapper last year. QB under center most always means hand off.

      2. Chris,

        I meant the shot gun spread. Crist also ran this offense in high school and is better equipted to take a hit. His second kneed injury was a fluke and a non contact injury. He was going out of bounds. Plus I don’t think Rees knows the playbook as well to make the reads. Also, receivers and QB’s need timing and 11 practices isnt’ enough for timing.

    2. Scav –

      An injury to Woods and all bets are off. Last year we had the banger Robert Hughes. Not so this year and Woods is typically only a slasher type runner. The verticle game will be needed more this year.

      There is no doubt Crist has the edge in experience but he is not durable as a spread QB as he has shown repeatedly. A seemingly minimal hit against Michigan and he was in another state. Also as for Crist being “cleared to play” he fell like a girl when his first knee went out and didnt take an atrocious hit when the 2nd gave out. Iffy at best and it is still too early to tell if he can really plant and fire.

      I believe Rees is a gamer and he has already shown it and yes he still has much to learn but he did very well with what was asked of him especially with getting little work before being thrust into the starting role.

      It WILL be a competition in the fall – I see Rees starting and winning.

      1. This year you have Jonas Gray. Hopefully, he will get the opportunity that has not been given so far. Last season, when he touched the ball, he seemed to rip off 10 or 15 yard runs. He’s big enough to run over people and fast enough to run around them.

  13. None of the QB’s looked impressive. Hendrix and Golson both had some moments that showed why they were recruited and that with some work, they will be great QB’s for ND. But they looked much too raw to even be considered starters in the Fall. As for Crist and Rees, both made some mistakes that they shouldn’t have with the experience under their belts. Yes, Crist has been at ND for 3 seasons but the 1st 2 he was learning a completely different offense and last year, he showed signs of greatness but also looked quite horrible at times. Maybe if he had the defense that Rees had (and the run game), things would have been different. He plays as if he is scared sometimes and he has to get rid of that fear if he ever wants to be a great QB. I don’t think his problem is accuracy. I think it’s fear and he rushes his throws. Rees throws into coverage way too often. He has the accuracy but he makes poor decisions. It will be interesting to see who wins the job. My guess is that it will be Crist with Hendrix as the backup.

    1. I agree that Crist usually errors on the side of caution where I’ll throw it low and outside as oppose to the #s where if it gets a little wild the defender can make a play. I also agree Rees throws into coverage way to much and also it seems that BK will only call 2 routes for Rees, a vertical seem to the TE, a drag to the slot or W receiver.

  14. Also, I forgot about the first drive against Army when he threw a pick in the endzone. You need to look at the body of work and I don’t see it with Rees. I think Hendrix will ultimately beat him out. Rees reminds me of Levechio who was 10-1 as a starter his freshman year and didn’t play another down after his freshman year and transferred.

    1. Jack –

      Put it in perspective – this is a kid who came off the bench and should have had a Tulsa win to boot. He is 4-1 and gritty. Those are the facts. Its his to lose based on how they finished last year. Its youth vs spending another year not running the offense the way it was designed then transitioning again next year.

      1. Chris,

        It ins’t his to lose. So you lose your starting position because of an injury. I think it should be fought over but between the two of them, but I see a much smaller playbook for Rees than Crist.

  15. Crist was like a china doll out there last year and the offense was compromised in order to protect his knee. How much more do you think the offense will be held in check having now to protect 2 bad knees? I think the program takes a step backwards this year on offense if they reinsert Crist. While neither QB even appeared to be really ready to scrimmage last Saturday – a 4-0 Rees has the job to lose in my opinion. He learned on the fly and bottom line was undefeated as a starter including beating SC on the road and has a Bowl win to his credit playing straight off the bench. That earns something in my book plus his confidence will be at a higher level this year.

    1. Chris,

      He is cleared to play. A 4-0 Rees had nothing to do with his play and as far as the offense compromised Crist rushed for more yards than Rees. I love how this board things Rees is so great. Look at the games Crist played he lit up Michigan State, Pitt and BC. In all of those games the defense let the team down. I didn’t see that after the Navy game. The defense and solid running game was the reason for the streak at 4-0 last year Tommy Rees’s play almost lost a game for the Irish. You saw what happened when SC brought the heat he folded and committed three turnovers in Irish territory against a shitty SC defense. Evaluate the play not wins and losses. He also made a horrible read in the Blue Gold game which was picked and he should have had two others picked.

    2. China doll? Are you kidding? Did you watch him play last year. He had very good runs against, BC, Michigan, Pitt. He had 52 runs last year and got hurt on a non-contact one that was a fluke. Watch the games played last year and only the Stanford and Navy games did he play poorly and everyone played poorly in those games. Without Cris ND probably loses to Purdue, gets demolished by Michigan, Michigan St, and loses to Pitt.

  16. Crist has only had 11 practices? Then somebody with his name has been on campus for four years impersonating him. Bottom line: if you’re in your fourth year and are still consistently one-hopping curl routes, I don’t give a crap about your leadership, intelligence or arm strength; you’re a fundamentally flawed QB who’s shown a stunning lack of progression. The confidence many of you have in Crist is grossly misplaced.

    And we didn’t see a dominant running game because ND essentially has two healthy tailbacks on th depth chart right now.

    1. McSweeney,

      You obviously don’t know the QB position, it is all about leadership, knowing where everyone should be and not making mistakes. Rees played against Tulsa, Army, Utah and a shitty USC team. Miami mailed it in. The only game against competition was SC and Robert Hughes bailed his ass out. Also, Crist is in a new system his second year with different mechanics and throwing techniques. BK’s offense is 99% from the shotgun and CW’s offense is 80% under center. It is a read option not a pro-style. Rees’s arm is weak and he makes a ton of mistakes. He threw an intercetpion at the end of the first half against Tulsa that was a pick six. Tulsa’s defense sucks. I can bet you that Andrew Hendrix will surplant him when Crist is gone. I like Rees aa a back up but Crist, Hendrix and even the Freshman Golson are better QB’s and atheletes. As far as him one hopping routes Rees was sailing passes down the middle. They both look horrible and if you listened to the audio receivers need to be in certain spots and were not. Kelly’s offense is about timing and 11 practices don’t get you timing.

      1. I agree with you on that one McSweeney 95% of the time he one hops an easy curl route . One thing he;s injury prone, he always has the deer in the headlights look. And this is suppose to be a five star recruit well he better start showing it or his job is out.I don’t want to hear about this he only had 11 practices from Jack he’s been around a couple years now. I think when Charlie was coach they taught them how to throw curl routes come on Jack are you serious

      2. 95% of the time? Rees had a completion percentage of 1.5% more than Crist so he couldn’t have grounded that many passes into the ground, also the ones he short hops are usually the mid to deep outs across the field where he has to throw it 20 – 30 yds for a 8 to 15 yd completion. Also I would have a short hop into an open receiver than the qb throw a pick which is what Rees was prone to do.

    1. I agree, we don’t have a strong running game right now, I think that’s why there are talking about moving riddick back to running back, wood is fast but too small and gray is big and slow

      1. Thank you for your comment. Yes, I agree, we need Riddick in the backfield. I think he can hit the homerun. I also don’t see a physical, nasty OL. What say you?

  17. I disagree with a lot of you guys. I think Rees is much more consistent in the pocket. Does he scream “first round pick?” No. But he has a level head and can make the big throws in the big games (unlike Crist). I wouldn’t doubt if Crist is the starter, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rees replace him – at some point.

    As for the Golson, give him some time and practice, and we’re looking at the next starter. Tremendous arm, tremendous athleticism, accurate throws and has a “persona” on the field.

    Hendrix didn’t impress me at all.

    1. Patrick,

      I disagree completly. Rees played four games last year and had one more INT than Crist. If the defense doesn’t step up they lose agains USC. He was horrible in the 3rd Qt against USC. He didn’t handle the rush and made a lot of mistakes. I don’t like Rees for one reason he turns the ball over. He made a poor decision in the Lo Wood interception which cost his team 3 points and possibly 7. Also, Crist didn’t have the running game that Rees had plus the four games were against weaker RPI teams and a Miami team that mailed it in. Crist also has rushed for more yards and is a threat to run which Rees is not even close. Also the deep throws down field are not there his ball sails. He will have trouble against a team that can match up and play press coverage, because they will take away the short intermediate throws. I like have Rees as a back up until Hendrix passes him.

      1. I’ve got to agree with Patrick on this. I don’t really see the infatuation with Crist. Yeah, I feel bad for him that he has been injured, but he hasnt done anything to annoint him over Rees who is 4-0 as a starter. Ill be surprised if Crist is the starter because of what Kelly has said all offseason, “The goal right now is to win football games and not to put on a show.” (Paraphrased)And the interception by Rees,correct me if I’m wrong was on a roll-out to the short side of the field with bunched receivers. That’s a dumb playcall if you ask me, especially because it is a spring game and you gotta figure the QB is going to try to force the ball in somewhere knowing that the game doesn’t really matter. Again, I havent seen anything from Crist that shows he is going to win games without having to put up massive numbers and that is what I like about Rees who btw is only a true sophmore.

  18. My evaluation of the game was completely different than everyone. I watched a lot of spring games and the QB’s and receivers were not on the same page in any of them. Eleven practices is not enough time to run a precision offense, so I don’t fault either Crist or Rees. However I feel Dayne is the clear winner. He runs the offense and is a leader. He has a better arm and can run better than Rees. Rees was baited into throwing a pick by Lo Wood. Crist checked down when the throw wasn’t there and the fade in the endzone was not the primary receiver it was Riddick who ran the wrong route. Also Dayne carrries himself better and knows the offense better. I think when it is all said and done Hendrix will pass Rees on the depth chart. Hendrix on the other hand is a stud and perfect for this offense. He is also big enough to take a hit and play a full season.

  19. I would have liked to see the continued focus on the hurry up offense. There didnt seem to be the urgency and intensity that was present in the last B/G game. Overall I thought the scrimmage was lack luster and uninspired on offense regardless of weather. The defense obviously stood out a nice carry over from last year. Lynch will definitely be in the rotation this fall. Another injury to the running back position could severly hamper the Irish offense this year. Dont think Wood can carry the load for the whole year.

  20. Its true neither Rees nor Crist were very impressive in the spring game. Dayne is coming off a long layoff though and if you noticed is asked to make compoletey different throws than Rees. Rees gets the easy up the seem or short drag routes called while Dayne gets the mid to deep outs consistently. Dayne often even if it is a ten yard route is throwing the ball 20+ yards from the opposite hash on the out, I dont think people take that into account when comparing Rees and him. But again neither was impressive, I still got to believe it is Crist who will get the nod and all this coyness from Kelly is just to drive Crist to keep elevating his game.

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