Notre Dame Football: 10 Reasons Why Dayne Crist Is the Right Choice at QB
The spring session in South Bend is wrapping up and still the debate of Dayne Crist vs Tommy Rees for starting quarterback rages on amongst Irish fans. Frankly, it's nice to have so many viable options at quarterback that are worth arguing about.
Both sides of the debate have valid points and at heart every person just wants the best player to win the battle, but I'm here to give you 10 reasons as to why the people in Crist's camp chose wisely.
No. 10: The Injury Rule
Let's start with an easy one that transcends college football. It's common practice that a starter cannot and should not lose his job due to injury.
Now of course there are exceptions to that rule like when a player steps in and starts playing far better without the player. Some could argue that's exactly what happened once Rees took over, but that's an oversimplification of reality.
Rees did a great job stepping into a difficult circumstance, but he had the advantage of a completely different (and more effective) game plan along with a stellar defense. Those are luxuries Crist did not have.
All things being equal, both quarterbacks showed promise for the future. While Rees performed well he didn't play well enough to warrant Dayne forfeiting his job moving forward.
No. 9: Superior Arm Strength
Dayne Crist has the prototypical size for a quarterback and along with it a prototypical arm. While he's lacked the necessary consistency to be an elite level signal-caller to this point, he's proven that when that howitzer attached to his right shoulder is on target he's capable of making every throw.
Watch Crist's first touchdown pass from the 2009 season against Washington State. It was an absolute laser that hit the receiver 30 yards downfield on a rope. That's something that Rees simply isn't capable of doing.
If Notre Dame is going to be without Michael Floyd then they're going to need Crist to zip passes into some tight spots down the field. Accuracy can improve by leaps and bounds (just see Brady Quinn's progression over the course of his career) and Dayne's should as he begins to grasp the offense more and more. The rocket arm, like blazing speed, is something that's God-given and Rees simply doesn't have it.
No. 8: Mobility
Dayne Crist would never be described as a running quarterback, but he's also not a stiff either. Much like Brady Quinn was in school, Crist has sneaky athleticism even after the knee injury. He's the type of player who can burn a defense if they lose track of him.
He snuck into the end zone untouched on called runs against Boston College and Western Michigan. That's another physical shortcoming of Tommy Rees. His lack of mobility completely eliminates the threat of a quarterback run, which is a key facet of the offense.
The reality is that neither of these quarterbacks will be asked to do much running (that'll be up to Hendrix and Golson), but if he needs to Dayne can while Rees cannot.
No. 7: The Ceiling We've Seen
No one will deny how rough the end of Dayne Crist's year was in his final full game against Navy. He looked lost, confused, and beaten down by the wrath of Brian Kelly.
But everyone has their rough games and tough stretches, especially first-year starters. When fans point out "Rees was only a freshman," they forget Dayne was under the gun for the first time since high school as well. You learn and you grow from your mistakes.
I keep going back to Brady Quinn because it's a relevant parallel. Quinn had a very bumpy ride his first season at the helm and even a lot of his second go-around. He made great strides though as he became more and more confident.
Dayne has already shown brief flashes of greatness like the beginning of the second half against Michigan State when he ripped off eight straight completions; he just needs to iron out the kinks.
Tommy Rees did a great job filling in, but for the most part his responsibility was to simply manage things and not make mistakes. He didn't show much to lead you to believe he could go out and win a game where the Irish fell behind early and needed to sling the ball.
Crist did a great job leading Notre Dame back against Michigan after the Irish fell behind 21-7 when he went down with an injury. Brian Kelly leaned on his arm and he responded by completing two long touchdowns to take the lead late and almost pulled off a miracle by getting ND in range for a shot at the end zone on the final play.
You don't necessarily want to rely on a quarterback's arm all the time, especially when there's an effective run game to lean on, but when the time calls for a comeback it's nice to have that card to play.
No. 6: Not as Mistake Prone
One thing that often plagues first-year starters is bad decision making. Crist made his share of boneheaded decisions, but when all was said and done he threw less than an interception per game. That's less than Quinn and Clausen averaged in their first seasons.
Rees on the other hand averaged over 1.5 picks per game. He made a terrible throw and decision at the end of the Tulsa game that ultimately led to a loss. Against Southern Cal he single-handedly dragged the carcass that was the Trojan offense back into the game with crippling turnovers deep in his own territory.
Crist's bad decisions consisted more of holding onto the ball too long and erring on the side of caution when it came to letting it rip. Those are things that are correctable and will be improved as his comfort level with the offense.
No. 5: Game Experience
This is simple math. Dayne Crist started more games than Rees. That game experience is invaluable and the fact that much of Crist's came when he was under extraordinary pressure to carry the offense is even better.
As it's been stated many times, Rees wasn't operating with the entire playbook when he took over after Crist's injury. Brian Kelly did a phenomenal job simplifying things for the freshman and shifting the offensive philosophy to put the team in a better position to win.
Crist on the other hand was asked to sling the ball all over the yard because the run game hadn't blossomed early in the year. His extended experience of being called on to deliver in pressure situations against teams like Michigan and Michigan State was huge in his development.
No. 4: The Work He's Put in to Come Back
Twice Dayne has suffered traumatic knee injuries that were supposed to sideline him until at least the summer session. Twice he's worked so hard rehabbing that he was ready for the start of spring ball.
Many kids would have just thrown their hands up and called it a day after the second injury, but he did everything possible to put himself in a position to get back on the field. He's a fighter that's dedicated to the program and with all the work he's put in he deserves the opportunity to start September 3 against South Florida.
No. 3: Rep Experience
One thing people often forget is the fact that not only did Crist start the first eight games, he also received the vast majority of reps starting in the spring as Kelly tried to bring him up to speed. That's essentially eight to nine months worth of first team reps where he built up experience and familiarity with the offense.
Starting the final two months of the season doesn't mean Rees has caught up with Crist in terms of comfort with the entirety of the offensive attack. The gap has closed, but now that they're both healthy it's once again an advantage Dayne possesses.
No. 2: The Potential for Greatness
As we stated earlier, there have been glimpses of Crist's vast potential. He still has a long way to go to iron out the kinks and reach an elite level, but the tools are there if he can stay healthy.
Many had him pegged for the next superstar before his injuries, but the mob is fickle and a few disappointing memories have people searching for the next Irish superstar. Don't close the book on Dayne just yet.
Crist and Rees both have stellar work ethics and leadership characteristics, and the desire to be great. What Dayne possesses that Tommy does not though are the physical attributes that can take him to that next level.
No. 1: Crist Deserves a Chance to Lead with a More Complete Team Behind Him
When Dayne Crist started at the beginning of the year the entire offense was on his shoulders. One can only speculate whether Brian Kelly simply didn't believe in the running game at that juncture or he just thought passing much more put the Irish in the best position to win. The reality was opposing defenses were able to sit back and hone in on the pass because the rushing attack wasn't a legitimate threat.
Imagine if Crist was afforded more time in the pocket or if defenses were on their heels a bit worried about the run. One could easily argue that opposing defensive strategy did a 180 when Rees entered the picture (hone in the on the run and dare him to pass).
Speaking of defense, Notre Dame's defense completely transformed starting with the Tulsa game. Early in the year they were attempting to shake the residual effects of Tenuta's horrendous tutelage. After the Navy debacle, they were completely dominant. Had Notre Dame's defense finished off the games against Michigan and Michigan State when Crist had led the Irish back from deficits to take the lead in the fourth quarter fans would have an entirely different view of Dayne's season.
Pair Crist with a strong running game and a defense that's a lock to hold the opponent under 20 points and you've got a winning combination.