There's the real million dollar question for 2010. The Irish are loaded and deep at the skill positions; however, all those toys will go to waste if the quarterback can't deliver.
Enter Dayne Crist.
Crist was one of the top recruits in the country when he graduated high school. He's an impressive physical specimen at 6'4", 235lbs, equipped with a rocket arm and some sneaky fast wheels for a guy his size. When Brian Kelly took over and Jimmy Clausen opted for the NFL it meant Dayne was thrust into the starting role a year ahead of schedule. He's been forced to learn a totally new offense, new terminology, and all while recovering from a torn ACL suffered about 10 months ago.
Every report out of camp is that Crist feels great, he's running full speed, and the knee is totally healed. That's tough to buy knowing that it takes most players a year—usually two years—to bounce back to 100%. One of his biggest assets was the new dimension his running ability was going to add to the offense. That goes out the window this season because the planned runs won't be worth risking another injury. On top of the physical issues there's also the mental side of coming back from a traumatic injury. It's one thing to drop back and run around when you're wearing a red jersey that means no one can hit you; it's an entirely different story when defenders are out to kill you and falling around your surgically repaired knee.
Were Dayne 100% healthy there would be relatively steep learning curve. The fact that his mobility is limited and he'll inevitably be worried about his knee when the bullets start to fly means the hurdles he'll have to overcome will become even larger. Asking him to step in right away and pick up where Jimmy left off—as some people think he should—is unrealistic and unreasonable.
That being said, if the offensive line can keep him upright and allow him time to get comfortable in the first couple games then the Irish offense could really take off. This is one of the most talented teams Notre Dame has ever fielded in terms of skill position athletes. Michael Floyd and Kyle Rudolph are potential All-Americans, there are five receiving targets that will log significant minutes at 6'3" or taller, and the running back stable is stocked with speed, size, and explosiveness.
All of the aforementioned weapons will make his transition to starting quarterback easier, but it's all on Dayne's shoulders to make the leap from raw prospect to polished producer. If he can accomplish that it could translate into a very special season for Notre DAme; if he doesn't then it will be a long year.
Smart Money Prediction
Dayne Crist's has a bright future, it's just that it's going to take awhile to arrive at that bright future. Dayne is a raw and inexperienced. When you pair that with the fact that he's bouncing back from a major injury it translates to a bumpy road. Expect a performance reminiscent of Brady Quinn's sophomore yeara handful of questionable decisions, some flashes of greatness, but on the whole enough evidence to lead fans to believe this team has a bright future with Dayne Crist at the helm.