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QB competition focusing on Crist and Rees

Aug 16, 2011, 5:18 PM EST

wpid-dayne-crist-tommy-rees

With Brian Kelly and Notre Dame holding their second media day, this one with a national twist,  Kelly was given the opportunity to essentially answer the same set of preseason questions for a second time, only this time from reporters at the New York Times and USA Today.

For those that have been following along closely, that means more of the same on guys like Michael Floyd, Manti Te’o, Cierre Wood and Darius Fleming. But when it came to the four-man quarterback race, Kelly finally conceded that it’s all but down to a two-man race between senior Dayne Crist and sophomore Tommy Rees.

“Here’s where we are — Crist and Rees have separated themselves,” Kelly said from the podium in Notre Dame’s pressbox. “They can take the whole offense and run with it. Then you’ve got two young guys that have not mastered the entire offensive structure, but have excelled in small doses.”

In reality, this is what many expected when spring practice ended last year with a Blue & Gold game that featured Everett Golson and Andrew Hendrix getting the lion’s share of snaps, while Crist and Rees played just sparingly. And while neither Dayne nor Tommy bring a running threat to Kelly’s offense, it’s clear that they supply the Irish the best chance to win football games now.

“It really is mastering the offensive system,” Kelly said. “When I say mastering our system, there are so many different things we can do with our offense, that the quarterback really has to be efficient in all areas. Areas like getting us in the right play, checking to the right protection and making sure the right people have their hands on the football.”

As the Irish finish their final week of installation before moving to two weeks of preparation for South Florida, it’s clear that while the race that will inevitably be determined by “the slightest of margins when we make this decision” the coaching staff while choose from two quarterbacks with very different skillsets.

Just ask offensive coordinator Charley Molnar.

“Dayne has the stronger arm, but you’re really splitting hairs,” Molnar said. “He probably throws a little better deep ball. Tommy probably throws the short to intermediate passes a little bit better than Dayne because he gets the ball out of his hands so fast.”

Credit Kelly and his offensive staff for keeping this decision as buttoned up as it’s been, all while answering questions about the quarterback derby seemingly every day. Still, if you had to read the tea leaves, I still expect Crist to be the guy that’s running the offense come September 3, unless something major happens between now and then.

If there’s a worry that Crist will still look like the hesitant, sometimes learning on the job quarterback that he was at times last year, Kelly isn’t showing it.

“He’s a much better football player than he was last year,” Kelly said of Crist. “His demeanor, focus and buying into the Brian Kelly football system, all those things have made him a better player and a better quarterback.”

 

  1. nudeman - Aug 16, 2011 at 6:20 PM

    It will be Crist. Barring an injury.

  2. notredamegrad - Aug 16, 2011 at 7:01 PM

    I would like to hear a bit more about what is meant by the claim very frequently made that “neither Dayne nor Tommy bring a running threat to Kelly’s offense.” This is commonly said, but what would constitute a genuine “threat” isn’t quite clear to me. If “threat” means Denard Robinson, he-could-run-all-over-you-on-every-play, then absolutely – neither Dayne or Tommy are that guy.

    Dayne’s demonstrated ability to run the ball is very little acknowledged, though. He did it a little more than six times per game that he played, which isn’t insignificant. He ended the season as the team’s fifth leading rusher, and if he had kept up the pace across the season, would have run the ball fewer times than only Wood and Allen, and significantly more times than Hughes or Gray. He also ran in four touchdowns, one from 29 yards out, compared to Wood’s 3 and Allen’s and Hughes’s 2 a piece. As you may recall, he also ran in at least 2 or 3 others from good distances that were called back.

    Rees, on the other hand, in thorough support of the our-quarterbacks-don’t-run claim, carried the ball a little less than three times per game for a season net of -2 yards (yes, that’s a negative) and no TDs.

    What does all of this count for? What do you think? Is Crist a bit of a threat to run? Why don’t these stats ever come up?

    • bernhtp - Aug 16, 2011 at 7:12 PM

      Crist is the stronger runner (mostly for reasons of size), but he is also more fragile, especially on the run. If I recall, wasn’t he knocked out of the first half of the Michigan game on a run? Ditto for his season-ending injury.

    • nudeman - Aug 16, 2011 at 7:47 PM

      My opinion: You’re confusing “mobile” with being a good runner. Crist is mobile, no doubt. That to me means he can evade the rush, scramble a little, and occasionally pick up 8-10 yards or more. But they don’t build a lot of quarterback keeper plays for him; and when he does break loose he’s not elusive, a la Denard Robinson, who can break tackles, run over a safety, and run away from the field with great speed.

    • papadec - Aug 17, 2011 at 2:06 AM

      I don’t think it’s fair to compare the running of Dayne & Tommy. Tommy came in with Dayne out for the season. Coach Kelly couldn’t afford to have Tommy go out for the season on a similar running play injury. He ran when he had no choice. Yes, he was -2, but stats can be deceiving.

      • spakj1 - Aug 17, 2011 at 8:35 AM

        College QB rushing stats are especially deceiving. Every sack is counted as a rushing attempt for negative yards. So if a QB runs twice for gains of 7 and 11 yards, but gets sacked twice for losses of 6 and 14 yards, his stats will say that he rushed for -2 yards.

      • notredamegrad - Aug 17, 2011 at 11:50 AM

        Thanks for all your responses to my question. Bernhtp, he was knocked out of the UM game on a run, but only after he had done some significant rushing on that opening drive, run in a touchdown that was called back, and then snuck in the touchdown that counted. In the first two drives against Tulsa, I think he ran because he was getting horrendous protection and the pocket kept collapsing – he looked panicked when he made that shot up the sidelines and took the bad fall.

        Nudeman, I really appreciate the distinctions you make. I agree that Crist is mobile but not a great runner. Kelly recently said that he wasn’t “mobile,” which seemed bizarre to me. Maybe I misunderstood his comment.

        Papadec, I don’t mean to compare Crist and Rees in terms of overall quality on this basis. It just seems important to put up the info for both of them if your talking about this particular claim. Of course Kelly didn’t allow Rees to run like Crist did, but could he have? And though QB rushing stats are deceptive, it’s hard for me to think around Rees’s -2 net yards vs. Crist’s 74 net yards and 4 TDs, especially when Crist endured so many more sacks than Rees did once the O-line was performing later in the season.

  3. bernhtp - Aug 16, 2011 at 7:04 PM

    Kelly seems intent on maintaining the competitive pressure until the last second.

    I will be interested to see how Kelly reconciles the Big Chunk offense with the conservativism he implies in the emphasis in trusting the defense and holding onto the ball. He is keeping us all guessing. Can’t wait for the season to finally start.

  4. barneysbullet - Aug 16, 2011 at 7:11 PM

    Too bad Bubba Starling didn’t come this way…BK coulda made a Payton Manning out of him. ;)

    • bgnd91 - Aug 17, 2011 at 1:46 AM

      Good thing** Bubba Starling didn’t come this way, seeing as he took 7.5 large to play pro ball

  5. gtizzo - Aug 16, 2011 at 8:14 PM

    Why does every QB in a spread offense have to run like Denard Robinson? Chris Leak won a national title with the spread offense he didn’t run. Tony Pike wasn’t a runner or even mobile at times. Spread QB’s like Chase Daniel, Blaine Gabbert didn’t see them on any highlight reels. Denard Robinson is one of a kind he has speed, elusive and every once in while he can throw the ball. Rees has the 3 game winning streak and a bowl win. That is plenty for me to name him starter.

    • jmset3 - Aug 17, 2011 at 11:17 AM

      Really? That is plenty for you to name him starter? Wow, I’m glad you aren’t coaching. Rees was more than admirable, but I certainly wouldn’t credit him with the winning streak. Go back and watch the USC game if you need proof that he was not the Heisman Candidate some fans are making him out to be. I know he has progressed as a player during spring and summer workouts, but just from watching film, Crist looks to be head and shoulders above Rees.

  6. trbowman - Aug 16, 2011 at 9:01 PM

    I expect it to be Crist but I don’t know why everyone is counting Rees out, either.

  7. ndtod - Aug 16, 2011 at 9:16 PM

    What if this is the greatest bluff of all time and Golson starts?

    • ndfanwabashman - Aug 16, 2011 at 10:32 PM

      I’ll give you one name why that’s a bad idea: Demetrius Jones.

    • domer77 - Aug 17, 2011 at 11:51 AM

      Here we go. Yes, it is very likely that Golson will take virtually no snaps with the first team, relegated to the scout team and on September 3rd leads the Irish out of the tunnel. Brilliant! Hey ndtod, er ndtoad, did you know Kelly has a secret running back too! Yes, not even on scholarship and runs a 4.1 40 and is 6’1″ 250 lbs. Can’t wait to unleash that monster. Couple the greatest bluff of all time with the greatest secret and Wham! we walk into the BCS championship and stomp the Rainbows!!!

  8. mattnef - Aug 17, 2011 at 9:59 AM

    I’ll be surprised if it isn’t Crist. Rees was solid if not unspectacular last year (does anybody remember the USC game?). I expect big things from Crist, finally fulfilling his potential.

  9. bernhtp - Aug 17, 2011 at 12:40 PM

    Assuming it’s not just flattery, Kelly’s comments about both QBs making huge progress suggests great QB performance, regardless who gets the nod.

    • oldestguard - Aug 17, 2011 at 1:50 PM

      This part of the article lit me up-

      “He’s a much better football player than he was last year,” Kelly said of Crist. “His demeanor, focus and buying into the Brian Kelly football system, all those things have made him a better player and a better quarterback.”

      And, if Rees is in the same neighborhood….well it’s only good news at that point.

  10. 1historian - Aug 17, 2011 at 12:47 PM

    Rees was the first sub last year (forget Montana) because he had enrolled the previous January and had been through a spring practice so he was WAY ahead of Hendrix. I never thought then and I don’t think now that he is as good as Hendrix. I think Crist will be the starter but if Hendrix has to spend another season holding the clipboard without a realistic chance of getting some serious time I think he’ll transfer.

    Crist has all the tools and says all the right things to the press but he just doesn’t seem to make things happen and he strikes me as injury-prone.

    Rees is a good player and gets the most out of his ability and says all the right things to the press but I just don’t think he is THAT good.

    I said about a month ago that (IMO) Kelly is looking for the guy who, when he steps on the field, makes his teammates play 1/4 step better, as in quicker, and at the same time he maybe makes the defense 1/4 of a step slower, as in reaction time – what is the SOB going to do now?

    Speaking as an armchair quarterback (aren’t we all?) 1) Hendrix 2) Crist 3) Rees 4) Golson, redshirt if possible.

    • lordsummer - Aug 17, 2011 at 1:15 PM

      I was wondering if there was another Hendrix fan on the internet anywhere. I hope Rees is coming along as well as the coaches imply, but I have to hope they are trying to work Hendrix into the offense somehow. If anyone could use three quarterbacks effectively, it’s B. Kelly and I hope I get to see it. Perhaps more realistically, I hope the “mobile package” that many have speculated on is real and that Hendrix gets to run it.

      I’m hoping that the next two years break down like this:
      2011 – Crist backed up by Rees in the more pro-style offense seeing most snaps
      Hendrix runs the specialty package
      Golson holds the clipboard and claps very athletically
      2012 – Crist is drafted
      Hendrix runs the mobile offense
      Rees runs the more traditional offense, subequal amount of snaps for each
      Golson is the backup, maybe has a few specialty plays of his own

      I think Kelly is capable of this.

  11. notredave - Aug 17, 2011 at 8:58 PM

    It’s going to be Crist. Bet the farm.

    Please, no thumbs down. I have rejection issues.

    GO IRISH!!!

    • 1notredamefan - Aug 17, 2011 at 9:20 PM

      man that was tempting….

  12. notredave - Aug 17, 2011 at 10:30 PM

    * sigh *

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