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Predicting Crist in year one

Apr 15, 2010, 3:14 PM EDT

The ascension of Dayne Crist to the role of starting quarterback didn’t happen as many suspected. As Charlie Weis’ second five-star quarterback plucked out of Southern California, many thought a golden age of blue-chip signal-callers running Weis’ NFL offense would usher in an unprecedented revival.

The Weis era put up historical offensive numbers, but the inability to play above average football led to a scenario few thought possible. Jimmy Clausen, fresh off an All-American-type season was leaving South Bend after three seasons, ready to ply his trade in the NFL. And Charlie Weis, after going 16-21 the past three seasons, would be going with him, exiled to Kansas City as the new offensive coordinator of the Chiefs. Worst still, Crist, who was always the heir apparent to Clausen, would be thrust into the starting job with only 20 throws under his belt, and with a torn ACL that was barely five months removed from surgery.

While everybody seems to agree that Dayne Crist holds the key to the Irish offense, trying to predict how he’ll play certainly presents a lot of variables. The Irish will be breaking in three new starters along the offensive line, with both tackles and Eric Olsen gone at center. The receiving corp lost Biletnikoff winning wide receiver Golden Tate, a staggering blow for any offense. While the entire running back depth chart returns, Theo Riddick moves outside to the slot, where he’ll try to open up opportunities for Cierre Wood.

The key for Crist and the Irish offense will be its ability to absorb Brian Kelly’s offense. While philosophically divergent from that of Weis’, Kelly’s spread attack correlated nicely when it came to success in the air, as both the Irish and the Bearcats were elite last season when it came to throwing the ball. More importantly, Kelly’s system has proven to be very good for quarterbacks in general, not something you could say about Weis’ complex NFL offense. Since Kelly entered D-I football in 2004, he’s yet to have a season where quarterbacks threw more interceptions than touchdowns. Over six seasons, his quarterbacks have averaged nearly 62 percent completions while throwing an average of 27 touchdown passes against only 10 interceptions, pretty staggering numbers. The average passer rating of a Brian Kelly quarterback is 141.8, which would’ve put John Q. Average in the top 30 in the country last season.

Thanks go to the immensely talented Jay from the recently retired Blue-Gray Sky blog, who collected the statistics of every quarterback to play under Kelly at Central Michigan and Cincinnati.

 

Looking at the chart, we start to see what exactly the typical Kelly quarterback does, and what we can expect from Dayne Crist. For most Irish fans, the image of Tony Pike, the 6-6, pocket quarterback who excelled as a passer first, was what many expected the prototype Kelly quarterback to be at Notre Dame. But after parsing the data, we see that Pike is actually an outlier, as most of Kelly’s quarterbacks ran the ball at about a 22 percent ratio of runs to plays (runs + passes), while Pike’s ratio last year was only 8.4 percent, almost a limitation to Kelly’s offensive ideal.

Many Notre Dame fans assumed that because of their similar lineage and pedigree that Dayne Crist was a quarterback built from the same mold as Jimmy Clausen. In reality, Dayne is far better suited for Kelly’s offense than Clausen ever could’ve been. In high school, Crist was regularly used as a weapon running the ball, and athletically he’s a much stronger fit for what Kelly would like to do with his quarterbacks. With Crist still working his way back from knee surgery, we won’t know exactly how hard the coaching staff will push him until he takes his first snaps against Purdue in the fall, but if past history is any indication, expect to see a lot of Dayne on the move.

For optimistic Irish fans, it’s hard not to look at Dayne Crist and realize that Brian Kelly has never had a quarterback with as much raw ability as he does now. Crist has the size, speed, and arm strength that just jumps out at you, and his ability to return from major knee surgery and lead his teammates during spring practice make you believe he has the intangible abilities you need in a winning quarterback as well. If Kelly and offensive coordinator Charley Molnar can coax an average season out of Crist, the Irish offense should be more than capable of good things. And for those of us that have watched and followed Dayne since he arrived in South Bend, there’s a sneaky feeling that has some Irish fans smirking.

Dayne Crist is far better than average.

  1. jimbasil - Apr 15, 2010 at 6:55 PM

    “Smirking”! Totally agree.
    Even if it was only the one pass from Crist to Goodman against WSU, it makes me smirk; and what keeps me smirking is that, that pass had intangible talent written all over it. There was something not at all collegiate in that one play that still has most ND fans buzzing, from what I can tell.

  2. mikeford - Apr 15, 2010 at 11:05 PM

    I have thought of the same play many times throughout this off-season and I couldn’t agree more! The raw ability shown on that one play keeps me smirking for sure. GO IRISH!!!!

  3. E-Man - Apr 16, 2010 at 8:41 AM

    You guys got to remember that was ONE PLAY from Crist. If you remember back to that game, he actually was pretty shaky as a passer –did better but not stellar against Purdue.
    Granted, now he’s getting his fill of snaps and much more instruction then he probably ever got with Weis because he is the #1, so I don’t see those two performances as defining him, but there is no way I’m going to look at that one play against arguably the worst team in Div I CFB and project that out for the entire season. I expect an uneven performance similar to Jimmy C’s Sophomore year.
    The difference is that the team as a whole will be better, so I expect the record to be better.

  4. TLNDMA - Apr 16, 2010 at 9:01 AM

    If you saw John Gruden and Jimmy Clausen discussing the Michigan game on ESPN, you saw a glaring weakness in Charlie Weis’s coaching style. Gruden talks to Clausen about having to take 4 timeouts vs UM to get plays in(and still getting a delay of game after one of them). Gruden called it an “insult to ND and the game of football”. Gruden then tells Clausen to make sure he practices under more gamelike situations in the future.
    The pace ND seems to practice at now, should help avoid these situations. Kelly’s frantic practice pace will make games seem to slow down for his players. If you watch the film of ND’s practices right now, there’s no standing around, joking, talking or smirking. Kelly and staff keep the pressure on and expect performance under duress. Hopefully this approach will bring smiles in the fall.

  5. ugetwutuask4 - Apr 16, 2010 at 11:06 AM

    This coming season I’d much rather Dayne play more like Tony Pike, than him running the spread option and taking a chance on re-injuring his knee K.A. With the offensive line having to gel and being somewhat inexperienced I’d rather not take that chance. Let him loosen up the arm for the first 5 or 6 games and get his timing down with the wideouts. Then you can possibly throw a few option play keepers with Dayne in there when need be. But I think Dayne would do much more damage throwing ropes like he did in the WSU game than if he goes out there running the spread option attack like UF and Tebow or Collaros at Cinnci even. That’s a gamble I would only take if I knew my backup QB’s could step in and win us some games.
    Fight’n Irish since ’79

  6. Ted - Apr 16, 2010 at 12:07 PM

    I will leave the coaching to Brian Kelly and his staff, but I have a difficult time seeing Kelly take 5-6 games for Dayne to lossen his arm and the O-Line to get cohesive game experience. That is one-half of the season, and it would seem to suggest it might be OK even if the Irish lose several of those games. From what I have read through his comments, I believe Brain Kelly will go into the season expecting to go 12-0 with Dayne Crist at QB.

  7. ugetwutuask4 - Apr 16, 2010 at 3:09 PM

    I’m not trying to play the role of head coach of the ND football team. I’m not saying it’s going to take Dayne 5 or 6 games to loosen up his arm or the O-line to get some co-hesion. What I’m saying is that it will take about 4 to 5 games to gain that game time experience Dayne will need to get acclimated to how B.K. wants the offense ran. Not to mention Dayne has barely any game experience if any at all, especially when it comes to having to lead the team on a comeback drive for a game-winning score. If you actually think Dayne and the offense is going to hit the field, first game of the season firing on all cylinders, playing mistake-free football with Dayne running option keepers around the edge enroute to a 12-0 perfect season BCS Bowl bid, slow your roll. Those expectations are the same ones we went into the past few seasons under WEIS with and look how that turned out. All I’m saying is we don’t have to risk our starting QB re-injuring himself at all this season just because he’s looked good with his mobility in spring drills and so you want to make him scramble around and run a spread option attack fresh off of knee surgery when you don’t even have a solid number two. Why not stick to what he does best for this year which is chuckin’ the ball all over the field with his arm. Sprinkle in an option play or two here and there, but don’t put his knee in a compromising postion be it practice or game time situation just for the sake of being able to run the option.

  8. Jennifer - Apr 16, 2010 at 7:13 PM

    I just want to say thanks to all you guys for these postings ~ Very interesting! Can’t wait for Keith’s assessment of the Blue/Gold game!

  9. A Wilson - Apr 19, 2010 at 11:54 PM

    I hope Crist recovers fully from his knee injury for one, and two I hope he shines under Kelly’s spread offense. We still have no clue to how Crist will look at the start of the season, I am just hoping that the 5 star recruit lives up to his highly talked about abilities. Go Irish!

  10. Sgt. Moon - Apr 20, 2010 at 10:56 PM

    My concern with Crist isn’t his ability to play QB, I think he is very capable and talented to play the position. I am concerned about his knee. Is it going to be at full strength? How is he going to handle it mentally?
    I agree that it is going to take a few games to feel comfortable and get some confidence in himself. I would hope that Kelly won’t have him running the ball all over the field, but there will be times Crist won’t have any other options but to run.
    Is he going to be thinking too much about getting hit in the knee? Can the O-line protect him enough? If he has to come out of a game for any reason, will the backup QB be ready?
    These guys are untested also.

  11. Sgt. Moon - Apr 20, 2010 at 10:57 PM

    My concern with Crist isn’t his ability to play QB, I think he is very capable and talented to play the position. I am concerned about his knee. Is it going to be at full strength? How is he going to handle it mentally?
    I agree that it is going to take a few games to feel comfortable and get some confidence in himself. I would hope that Kelly won’t have him running the ball all over the field, but there will be times Crist won’t have any other options but to run.
    Is he going to be thinking too much about getting hit in the knee? Can the O-line protect him enough? If he has to come out of a game for any reason, will the backup QB be ready?
    These guys are untested also.

  12. ourlady$ - Apr 21, 2010 at 9:21 AM

    Like Coach Kelly says, everybody better be ready, everybody better practice like they will be the starter. Coach has played all three quarterbacks in one year before, he’ll do it again if he has too.

  13. mike61 - Apr 22, 2010 at 7:03 AM

    Ara came in. new quarterback. passing combination of Hanratty to Seymor. Kelly comes in. passing combination Crist to Floyd. Jimmy who? Yes, that is a big smile on my face.

  14. Dan - Apr 22, 2010 at 12:16 PM

    When Ara came in, it was Huarte to Snow in his first year. Huarte won the Heisman.

  15. mike 61 - Apr 23, 2010 at 5:01 AM

    thanks Dan, two great ND passing combinations. the smile is even broader

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