Dayne Crist Named Starter for ’11 Season

dayne crist starter full
Dayne Crist was named the starting quarterback for Notre Dame in 2011 after coming back from his second major knee injury in the last two years on Tuesday. (Photo / Icon SMI)

After declaring the quarterback race was too close to call just a little over a week ago, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly named senior Dayne Crist his starting quarterback for the 2011 season after a quarterback battle between Crist and sophomore Tommy Rees that started in spring ball.

“We named a starting quarterback and that will be Dayne Crist,” Kelly said on Tuesday. “He will start for us against the University of South Florida.  Both of those young men, Dayne and Tommy Rees, had a great battle for that starting position, but Dayne will be our starter and I expect him to be the starter for 13 weeks.  We have great confidence in his ability to lead our team to a championship.”

“He is a much better football player.  He is a much better quarterback,” Kelly said of his starting quarterback.  “I would say quite frankly and honestly, he’s the kind of guy I want to coach.  He’s tougher mentally.  He handles himself in that leadership position the way I want our quarterbacks to handle it,” he would add.

That level of comfort with Crist as the starting quarterback didn’t always exist last year according to Kelly.  “I didn’t know Dayne very well last year.  I can’t tell you that I felt the same way about him last year, but I do now.  Subjectively those are things that take time and you have to look at all of those factors when making your decision.”

Part of this new level of comfort with Crist came from the relationship Kelly built with the former five start recruit over the last year and a half and their ability to communicate better.  “It allows me to coach Dayne with better communication.  We’re on the same page relative to what my expectations of him are.   You can say it will allow me to coach him better because we can communicate better.  He knows what I want from him and that takes time sometimes.”

With Crist as the starting quarterback, one of the key concerns is the chance of another major injury.  Crist has after all suffered two major knee injuries over the last two seasons causing him to miss significant time.  Despite his injury history, he will not be limited at all in what he is allowed to do with his legs once he gets onto the field for live action against USF in less than two week.

“He has to.  He can’t play any other way,” Kelly said when asked whether or not Crist would be able to let loose with his legs.  “He has to play the game the way it comes to him.  One of the things he did in camp was show great escapability.  After two knee surgeries he moved well, he was able to extend plays, and that was obviously part of the overall decision making process.  We couldn’t have someone who couldn’t extend plays in our offensive system.”

That running ability is one of the main physical traits that separates Crist and Tommy Ress – along with arm strength.  Crist is not going to be confused with Denard Robinson anytime soon, but he certainly can run the ball effectively when the opportunity exists.  People tend to forget that even though Crist missed most, if not all, of five games last year, he still led the team in rushing touchdowns with four.

While Crist has the edge in terms of physical traits – arm strength, size, running ability – Rees held a major edge in one department – wins and losses.  Rees was 4-0 as the starter and even though defense played a major role in that record, it was something that had to be considered.  According to Kelly, however, Rees’s record down the stretch was not a major factor in his decision process.

“A little bit,” Kelly said when asked about Rees record and how it factored into his decision.  “It was still about his growth and development as a quarterback as well.  He had things that as a true freshman he had to get better at and he did.  Tommy’s a much better quarterback than he was last year.  That’s why although it was a difficult decision, it’s one I like to make when you have guys that are developing.  They are both getting better as quarterbacks.  Tommy had that going for him, being 4-0, but it was more about he was a better quarterback and made great progress.  It’s just, at this point, Dayne is in that position to be the starter.

I have been saying all off-season that for Notre Dame to have a truly special season, Crist had to win the starting position heading into the season.  Between Rees and him, Crist has the edge in almost every physical category and has the ability to win games that Rees can’t at this point in his career if Kelly is able to coach it out of him.  There are areas where Crist struggled last year – most notably accuracy in the short passing game – but in terms of who has the higher ceiling, Crist holds the edge and if Kelly is able to get him to reach anywhere close to that ceiling, the Notre Dame offense could be a force by season’s end.

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  1. So I’m guessing that golden tate and brady quinn are #2 and #1 respectively in the best of the 2000s countdown?

  2. “I see Michigan losing to Notre Dame” Detroit Free Press

    “Michigan loses against Notre Dame”

    These are pro michigan sites. likewise vegas has ND +2 @ Michigan

    likewise, almost every talking head predicted Crist would get the nod over Reese.

  3. Almost every blog or poll I see they have the Irish losing to Michigan…sup with that? New coach – lay the smack down on Robinson…? Should be a high energy game at night though – should be a barn burner and I am seeing an Irish win if D plays tough. I will be at the Michigan State game and am greatly looking forward to that one! GO IRISH!

    1. I think they are assuming that under Hoke they will play much better D and that Denard is going to continue to be unstoppable (which may be true). I think they overrate the defensive improvement under Hoke and we do indeed outscore them. I do think we will need more than 35 points to win.

    2. Chris,

      Mich.St ALWAYS gets ND after the Michigan game.
      They got a sweet little deal going on there.
      It would be very difficult for any team to “get-up” after playing the Wolverines, let alone playing them in the first night game ever at the big house.
      While we are starting our season with South Florida and Michigan, the Spartans open with Youngstown St. & Florida Atlantic.
      I’ve never been in favor of the early season cupcakes like a lot of schools schedule, but whomever makes our schedules should take these facts into account every once in a while. Maybe try to cut the guys a break every now and then.
      Wish we could open the season with Mich St. and then play South Florida AFTER Michigan.

      1. No – I think we have Michigan State this year. I am not into the defensive hype – I need to see results on the field first before buying in. But, if they show they have real game against South Florida – lets agree to revisit the match up w/ Michigan State next week?

        I truly belive this is the year to really make a run. Next years scedule is absolutely brutal. They need to play to their ability – remain focused and not make stupid mistakes. A break on injuries this year would be nice too. If the defense proves there was no hype and they are the real deal – they have a damn good chance of making a run this year. GO IRISH!

  4. JC, I’d love to see that too. Yes, the Rocket return was amazing. And you make a good connection to something, regarding coaching leadership. When that happened under Holtz, the team did not do OMG, we did something great, now let’s coast. Kelly did some good things last year in creating expectations of greatness. Weis, would let the kids get the mindset of having one thing go right and then be star struck by the excitement, forgetting that the other team wanted to punch them in the mouth the next time on the field. Kelly should have these kids realizing that immediately after the band finishes playing and the extra point has been made, it’s back to business. WE have to land the next punch. And when the opponent is down, you only let them up after 60 minutes is up and the game over. We should watch how Kelly handles the game through the entire 60 minutes. If this team is ready for prime time, then the Irish, not South Florida will make it a 60 minute game.

  5. C-Dog,

    I expect a tough game, Skip is a very good coach like Dad. However, we need someone to run back a TD to generate excitement right off the bat.
    I’m curious who our return guy will be this year??

    In 1988, I was fortunate to have tickets in Michigan’s Alum section to witness the “Rocket” run back two! Old Bo was never the same after that,LOL!

  6. Chris and JC,
    Definitely the Holtz factor. I watched some South Florida games. Eerily similar to the Cincy style that Kelly employed. Ironically, SF might hinge on their QB. The kid is athletic, but if Diaco can dial up some confusion in the middle of the field, I foresee a few picks coming our way.
    However, Skip will have something to prove. We can be sure this will be SF’s first “bowl” game of the season. ND cannot be tight. Kelly better have the team fired up. I am sure he will.

    I hope anyone going to the game enjoys the weekend. Go Irish!

    1. Yes, JC, there is a genetic connection. It’s the same Skip Holtz that walked on and later coached at ND under his father, Lou. Did you just start liking ND Football when Bob Davie was coach?

  7. Way to keep focus – agreed. All this banter and we still have to get past South Florida. No cake walk thats for sure.

    1. Skip will be motivated. He wanted this job. Let’s hope all the athletes show up and we run South Florida back to Tampa.

      Go Irish!

  8. Guys,
    Don’t get too caught up on the QB situation. Crist is more of a leader and is more mature, so I think Kelly did the right thing. However, Rees can step in if Crist gets hurt. Neither is the second coming of Joe Montana, but really if they are better than average, that should be good enough. Referring to a National Champ ( unless it is stripped ), anyone remember Craig Krenzel of Ohio St.?
    I think a QB debate is good until it gets obsessive. Defense is the difference maker.

    I am more hopeful, and concerned that our defense lives up to the strides in improvement we hope have followed the end of last season. I am very confident that our run defense will be fine. I do have two concerns. One is tackling by the secondary. Hopefully more than just Teo, Slaughter and Calabrese can tackle. Stanford pretty much kicked the crap out of our secondary in open field situations last year. the corners and safeties need to scare a few people. Secondly, pass coverage by the linebackers must improve. I haven’t heard a ton about that, but I’d like to see our linebackers not look confused in pass situations. Teo and Calabrese specifically looked lost when called to cover in zone.

    The more comfortable the defense is, the more they can just fly and swarm to the ball. That will make more difference than any one of the QBs we have available right now.

  9. After last years thin line-up with a new system, I think this year we will see an all out effort on both sides of the ball. I’m optimistic Dayne and the Defense will make a statement right out of the box. Dayne is deceptive on just how fast he really is with a very long gate like Goodman. For Dayne it’s definately now or never, and because of that coupled with quality back-up, my guess is BK will be giving him a full green light. I really like our chances with Dayne’s leadership and courage. Not many would comeback from a second knee injury and start.

    Go Irish………………………………………………….!!!!!

  10. Lets look at the history. Both of Crists’ knee injuries were basically no contact injuries. Against Washington State he basically fell like a girl and blew out his knee while barely being hit. Not to mention he was knocked into another neighborhood when playing Michigan last year, again while being barely hit.

    Maybe BK saw some escapability during the preseason here – I wasnt there and will defer to Kelly on that one. Ultimately I am thinking he is giving the guy the start based solely on the kids heart and what he has done in the off season which is indeed impressive considering the circumstances. I think however that the statement BK made about Crist being the starter for 13 weeks supports that. Based on heart alone, coming off the injuries and ND being focused these days on being a mainstream PC catholic university I firmly believe BK had no other choice but to make that decision. I am not against the kid but based on Crists history alone – I just dont think the odds are in his favor.

    As for Crist being a Heisman candidate – I think it is a pipe dream. Again I would truly love to see this kid succeed that but I dont think that is reality based on his history. He has spent all this time behind other QB’s, namely Clausen, and he was a top rated QB out of California but the fact remains he has not yet completed a full season due to injuries – serious injuries. If you dont think teams are going to tee off on that then you havent been watching college football seriously.

    I dont believe we really had a chance to see Crists escapability on display last year because BK was in fact protecting him due to injury and thus truly not running the offense he wanted to implement. I dont think that prior comparison between Crist and Rees regarding speed is a fair statement in that context. Also remember Rees has also progressed since last year. There are a lot of bloggers that are failing to take that into consideration in this discussion too. Indeed Crist has improved in the off season but so has Rees.

    Also to opine that BK is now in the mantra of running an offense based on what talent he has on hand simply goes against his nature. One of the reasons he was hired was to challange the status quo – not to simply accept the situation. His allure was his demeanor – to take kids beyond their own perceived expectations of themselves – to make them better than they though they were – that is coaching at its finest. If he goes away from that not withstanding a horrific injury situation then what are we rooting for in the end?

    Kellys failure to challange – his failure to keep his foot off the gas – his failure to play not to win but to play it safe will indicate to me the need for a different coach. But, this just isnt this guys make up and I will be shocked to see otherwise. Again – all the best to Crist. I just hope in the name of political correctness -BK’s mantra of next guy in doesnt fall by the wayside in the process. GO IRISH!

    1. Chris,

      First of all the hit against WSU was a bad hit. I had the same injury from someone rolling up on my ankle and tearing my ACL. Review the replay. Second, he took his foot off the excelerator becuase his defense was not deep and got winded. I like Tommy Rees as a person, but don’t see him starting for the Irish once the younger QB’s learn the offense.

      1. Jack –

        We must have been watching different games. He was running in open field, a guy hit him on on the side, shoulder pad level and he landed on his butt and the knee injury ensued. It was not a bad hit.

        I would also bet Rees would easily outrun a guy with two bad knees. Again. I do hope for the best for Dayne. It would be a tremendous story but in light of his injuries he has the stigma of being a china doll back there. You can also bet the house that every sports announcer will lead their intros with that too.

        Maybe he has rehabbed physically but the mental aspect of it will be hard to put out of his head and I think he will be handicapped because of it and play tenative. Thats all i am saying…

      2. The guy grabbed him from behind and rolled up on his leg. Watch it on Youtube and it will show you his injury. It doesn’t look like much but twisting the knee and Rees is as slow as molasses in January. He couldn’t out run the punter. Did you see him try and run last year it was a mess. Crist can probably run a 4.7 Forty Reese seems to be at a 5.0.

    2. Last year was extremely difficult due to unfortunate circumstances. Coaches are indeed influenced by these unexpected events. However, considering the 8-5 record, I don’t believe using failure three times in one sentence would be a fair assessment of BK’s methodology, and 1st year results.

      Last year the turning point was at 4-5 and it was not exclusively just one person, it was the whole team. I’m sure BK definately had some positive beyond-the-status- quo influence at that point.

  11. I disagree with many of your analysis that Crist can’t run the fast spread. Last year against BC they ran the quick spread for a quarter agains BC and scored 21 points. I don’t think they can run the Oregon offense for a full game, but I think they can change the tempo of the game at times and it will benefit them. As for Chris’s comment on Crist no being a good runner, he is better than Rees. Rees is slow and has zero exscapability. Also, if you watch Crist in high school he ran a spread offense and ran. I think BK has a better grasp of his team and what they are capable of. We will see if they can accomplish great things this year. I excited to see what happens.

    1. I agree, the problem is not that he can’t run, just look at the play he was injured on last year. He can escape, he just has either a) bad luck or b) is vulnerable when he takes off down field.

  12. This kid has paid his dues.
    He sat behind Jimmy Clausen,then started with almost no game experience,and has over come two very bad injuries. He has shown toughness, commitment, and leadership. He has earned the respect of his coaches, team mates, and fans.
    If our defense plays the way they should,and our offence can run the ball with some consistancy, then he shouldn’t have the burden of having to throw 35 times a game, or having to generate 30 or more points a game passing, in order for his team to have a chance at winning.
    My only concern is his mobility. Any successful college QB must be able to avoid sacks and keep plays alive with his legs. This is where Rees might have an advantage. But we will see.

    1. Kelly delt with that in his announcement and said one of the reasons he picked Crist was he had more “escapability” than Rees.

  13. Why is there still this talk of Crist running BK’s offense? We will not see the offense that was at Cincy for a couple of years. Kelly said last year that he had to have explosive offenses at the other schools to get people in the stands. At ND, he just needs to win. He also tried to take players that were not made for his offense and try to plug them in.

    This year, they know the strengths of the players and have designed the offense around that. We will not see the high speed offense that Crist tried to run last year, it will be a more efficient offense like the one that Rees ran. The difference is that Crist has a better grasp of the playbook and has a better relationship with Kelly. They know what to expect from each other and I could see the same chemistry that Weis had with Quinn and Clausen develop between Kelly and Crist.

    From what I have read this summer, most people have not realized that Kelly changed his approach and philosophy mid-year last year and it is bleeding into this year. He is flexible enough to form his schemes around the players instead of forming the players around the schemes. This man is a great coach and there are going to be big things for ND while Kelly is in charge. He has a plan and his team will execute it. He said himself, this is the most focused group he has EVER coached.

    I’m calling it right now, Dayne Crist will be in the Heisman discussion at some point this year. He is going to burst into the discussion mid-year much like Brady Quinn did his junior year.

  14. Agreed – I honestly dont think he will last the season but at least we have a proven backup that is another year older and still undefeated as a starter! Also cant wait to see the package put in for Golson! GO IRISH!

  15. I’ve been a fan of Rees for awhile but I trust Kelly. He’s won. He knows what will work for this offense and it sounds like Crist is it. Hopefully Dayne has been doing squats and getting his legs strong enough to withstand the hits the Irish Q is going to take.

  16. We’ll see…I still say Crist hampers the offense BK really wants to run in light of his injuries. As long as BK doesnt dial the offense back and doesnt get conservative on play calling – let Crist play. All this other talk and touchy feely crap doesnt rate – just produce on the field and let your play talk for you. GO IRISH – torch South Florida!

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