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One of the biggest disappointments from the spring game was the fact that Dayne Crist didn’t look like he improved all that much from last fall. All spring practice reports and interviews suggested that things had slowed down for him and he was far more comfortable in the offense. That didn’t appear to be the case Saturday.
Tommy Rees on the other hand looked like he’d progressed, but he still possesses the same shortcomings as last season. First of all, physically he’s just unable to make all the throws that the other three quarterbacks can. But secondly—and more importantly—is the fact that Rees has a propensity to turn the ball over.
Many praise Rees for getting the ball out of his hand quickly, but sometimes that quick release follows a bad read and leads to costly turnovers. That tendency reared its head during the spring game when he threw a bad interception to Lo Wood. He was fortunate that was the only pick he threw because a couple other passes very easily could have gone the other direction.
What does their performance mean, if anything? The biggest takeaway is that the Irish lack a national title caliber quarterback right now. Look at the list of quarterbacks in the national title game the last five seasons:
2006: Chris Leak, Troy Smith
2007: Matt Flynn, Todd Boeckman
2008: Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford
2009: Greg McElroy, Colt McCoy
2010: Cam Newton, Darron Thomas
With the exception of the 2007 season, that’s a list of elite quarterbacks. Notre Dame lacks that level of signal-caller right now. Could Dayne Crist or Tommy Rees evolve into it by the fall? Possibly, but it’s unlikely. In Kelly’s offense you need a triggerman capable of consistently moving—and protecting—the ball. Crist has yet to prove he can provide the necessary consistency, while Rees hasn’t shown he can protect the ball adequately.
Will Hendrix or Golson evolve into one in the coming years? That’s distinctly possible, but to expect them to arrive this season is unrealistic.
Brian Kelly has a way of working magic with quarterbacks and maximizing their potential (just look at Rees last year and Zach Collaros at Cincinnati). If there’s one position people should feel comfortable letting him evaluate and improve, it’s the guy lined up behind center.
But based on what we saw last year and what we witnessed Saturday, the Irish don’t have a quarterback on the roster capable of taking them to the national title this fall. It’s a sobering fact, but unless something dramatic changes, it’s the truth.