It’s been a wild first two games for Notre Dame’s new starting quarterback in Dayne Crist, and yesterday’s loss to Michigan was full of incredible highs and heartbreaking lows.
Before the season began, the consensus out of South Bend was that much of the offense and team success was riding on Crist’s shoulders and his ability to make plays and stay healthy.
Game 2 showed Irish Nation just how important of a role Dayne Crist has in Brian Kelly’s first season at Notre Dame and that the team can ill-afford their big quarterback to miss any snaps, let alone multiple games.
We’ve only seen a small sample of Dayne Crist’s abilities, but here’s an early season report card for the Irish leader.
Arm Strength: A
There’s no doubt that Crist possesses an elite arm and can get the ball downfield in a hurry. The best part is that it appears relatively effortless for him and only a quick flick of the wrist sends the ball out like a rocket.
In a lot of ways, his arm strength reminds me of JaMarcus Russell, minus all the terrible mechanics of course.
The problem with Crist is that he needs to harness this strength and learn to put more touch on his throws.
Coaches will say that receivers need to catch anything, but Crist makes it hard on them at time by throwing bullets to players only 10 yards away.
Crist’s failed Hail Mary attempt at the end of the Michigan loss isn’t really an accuracy issue as much as it is the quarterback not really knowing the full power of his arm. This is something that needs to be refined.
Crist has completed almost 63 percent of his passes so far, but he struggled a little bit against Michigan and missed some open receivers.
The main issue doesn’t seem to be accuracy so much as touch and not putting enough air on the ball, or putting too much air on the ball when he needs to let his receivers make a play.
Having watched Jimmy Clausen surgically cut up opponents with laser-like accuracy, it can seem that Crist is not that accurate, but the new Irish quarterback certainly has very good accuracy for someone who has not played a whole lot in college.
In the spread offense, Crist should keep his completion percentage above 60 percent, and he has done that so far.
Accuracy was a big question mark heading into this season for Crist, and he has stepped up and calmed some of those fears.
Pocket Presence: B+
Crist has done a really good job of staying in the pocket and delivering the ball with defenders in his face and feeling the pressure, moving around and keeping his eyes downfield.
It’s obvious that Crist has a lot of smarts and good football sense.
The offensive line has done a great job of protecting Crist and keeping a nice pocket for him to step up into.
One thing he could do is get rid of the ball a little quicker, mostly because the team cannot afford for him to be taking blindside hits.
No one was really sure how much Crist would run the ball or if he would even keep the ball and take off at all early in the season.
Thus far, Crist has shown he has good mobility for someone his size and can take off downfield and pick up some big yards.
So far, there doesn’t seem to be any ill effects from his knee injury.
No one is going to confuse Crist for a running quarterback, but he has good agility in the pocket and has good enough speed to scamper downfield.
Decision Making: C+
Crist is a calm and level-headed young quarterback, but he also has a big gunslinger mentality because of his very strong arm.
As great as his two long touchdown throws were yesterday, they were extremely risky passes that might have been picked off against a better secondary.
The big problem with Crist against Purdue was that he wasn’t looking downfield enough and was taking the check down almost every time.
Against Michigan, Crist had multiple opportunities to hit an easy check down receiver (including on his interception), but he wanted to throw the ball elsewhere.
There were also a handful of instances where Crist could have simply taken off with plenty of daylight ahead of him and continued moving the chains.
He’s been solid in the decision-making department early this year, but there is plenty of room for improvement.
All indications from everyone involved with the program are that Crist has the makings to be the leader of this team and program.
If it wasn’t for his inexperience, his leadership grade would probably be as high as possible.
As impressive as Crist’s physical tools are, his leadership abilities are a great foundation to build the program around with a new coaching staff.
Crist has missed almost a quarter of the snaps this year with his mysterious injury yesterday afternoon and the only way to improve his grade in this department is to stay healthy as much as possible this year.
With the way the offense sputtered in his absence, it is clear that the Irish need Crist in the huddle for the entire year.
It may be a lot to ask at this point, but that’s the bottom line if Notre Dame wants to have success this year.
Even though this is Crist’s first year starting at the college level, expectations are still very high because of his physical skill set, maturity, leadership, and a Brian Kelly offense that has had success in the past.
Even with missing most of the first half against Michigan, he is on pace for nearly 2,900 yards passing, 18 touchdowns to only six interceptions, as well as 150 yards on the ground and another six rushing touchdowns.
Overall, you have to be very pleased with the progress Crist has shown in rehabilitating his knee and taking over the offense after Jimmy Clausen left early for the NFL.
His absence during Saturday’s game only reinforces how good Crist is and how much he is needed this season.