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Christmas links: Crist, Jackson, and Elliott

Dec 25, 2012, 12:18 PM EST

Jarious Jackson

First and foremost, a very Merry Christmas to everyone. Thanks for being a part of a wonderful year, both on and off the field. It’s terrific to see how many readers we keep bringing to the Inside the Irish blog, and I appreciate all the new friends.

Hope you enjoy some time with family, a dash of holiday cheer, and a few links to get you through the day.

***

Friend of the program Bruce Feldman has a great column on Dayne Crist, and how the former Irish quarterback is doing as he watches his former teammates prepare for battle with Alabama in the BCS National Championship.

As you’d expect, Crist was all class during his sit down with Feldman in Southern California. And while this final season of eligibility at Kansas didn’t turn out the way Crist, Kansas head coach Charlie Weis, or just about anybody that’s had a chance to get to know Crist hoped, as usual Dayne kept a positive attitude as he continues to plow forward.

Right now, that means prepping for a senior showcase All-Star game, where he’s hoping to wow an NFL scout or two and get a chance to head to an NFL training camp.

Do yourself a favor and read the entire story, but here’s a snippet from Feldman:

Dayne Crist spent four years in South Bend and in that time he . . .

  • Met his long-time girlfriend.
  • Began two seasons as the starting quarterback for the Fighting Irish.
  • Made many of his best friends.
  • Suffered two season-ending knee injuries.
  • Received more online death threats than he cares to count up.
  • Graduated with a 3.2 GPA and a Business degree.

Crist could’ve been in South Florida wearing the famed Notre Dame Golden helmet playing for the BCS title with so many of his closest friends — guys he lived with for four years, guys he calls his brothers. Actually, if the story played out the way many would’ve thought, Crist — the strapping 6-4, 235-pound former five-star California-bred quarterback — would’ve already sparked the Irish back to being a national powerhouse and be an NFL rookie right now. Instead, Crist transferred out of Notre Dame after getting his Business degree and ended up following former ND coach Charlie Weis to Kansas, where the Jayhawks went 1-11 while the 12-0 Fighting Irish are hoping to knock off mighty Alabama and win their first national title in almost 25 years.

Crist, though, is not second-guessing his decision to have transferred out as a grad student for the 2012 season. “I live my life with no regrets,” Crist said over lunch last week at a Southern California restaurant. “I really have had so many blessings in my life.”

Crist’s on-field plight has been covered quite a bit on these pages, and while many thought the five-star quarterback got a raw deal last season, ultimately it looks like Brian Kelly probably got things right.

That said, it’s never quite as simple as that. And after four years of watching a tremendous leader with all the physical attributes needed to be an NFL player never quite get things to click, it’s just a reminder of two things: 1) Quarterback is a really tough job. 2) Getting your degree is mighty important.

Whether it was the two major knee injuries or something else, Crist seems to lack the confidence that it takes to be a highly successful quarterback. But I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody took a shot on him, and at least gave him a chance to come to NFL training camp and fight his way onto a practice squad.

But if this is it for football, don’t worry about Crist. He’ll be successful in life after football and always continue to love Notre Dame.

“I love seeing those guys succeeding, and Notre Dame will always hold a special place in my heart,” Crist told Feldman. “I’ve gotten so many positives from going there.”

***

From one former Irish quarterback to another, Wes Morgan of BlueandGold.com caught up with Jarious Jackson, and it’s great to see that the former Notre Dame record-setting quarterback is still playing the game that he loves.

At 35 years old, Jackson has spent the better part of the last dozen years in professional football. He spent four years with the Denver Broncos before starting a global odyssey that took him to the NFL Europe’s Barcelona Dragons, before finding a home in the CFL, winning two Grey Cups with the British Columbia Lions.

Now backing up Toronto Argonauts quarterback Ricky Ray, playing in the CFL hasn’t stopped Jackson from following the Irish, and the 12-0 season has been great fun for one of my favorite Irish players ever.

Here’s more from Morgan’s conversation with Jackson, and his assessment of the work Brian Kelly has done transforming the Irish.

Where the No. 1 Irish are today, just a couple weeks from taking on No. 2 Alabama in the BCS National Championship in Miami, doesn’t surprise Jackson, who learned a lot about head coach Brian Kelly from Toronto teammate Zach Collaros. The former Cincinnati quarterback played under Kelly and helped lead the Bearcats to a 12-0 regular season in 2009.

A combination of Kelly’s winning skillset and Notre Dame’s stubbornness, Jackson said, made a perfect marriage.

“I hate to use the old cliché, but it’s just haters,” Jackson said of critics’ claims that the Irish would never be back on top. … “Notre Dame has been hated on for years and years. Even back when I was being recruited to go there Notre Dame was being hated on. The fact that they’re back at the top of the mountain and doing so well, I think it’s a tribute to the kind of guys they constantly bring in and the type of attitude the guys have. Coach Kelly has done an outstanding job.”

His records have been surpassed by guys like Brady Quinn and Jimmy Clausen, but people often forget that Jackson left Notre Dame after setting the school’s single-season records for passing yards and completions in 1999, all while throwing 17 touchdown passing and finishing second on the team in rushing.

Jackson was a better passer than he got credit for, and did a nice job running the football, similarities he shares with Everett Golson. Jackson talked about what he sees in Golson.

“I’m beyond impressed,” Jackson told Morgan. “I’m looking at him as almost a RGIII or Andrew Luck in their first year in the NFL with the type of year he’s having. He’s just going out and trying to win games any way he can. As long as he can keep that mentality, he’s going to grow and keep getting better and better.”

***

In a story that can’t help but bring out the Christmas spirit, Eric Hansen of the South Bend Tribune caught up with former Michigan head coach and Iowa athletics director Bump Elliott. The 87-year-old legend has watched the Irish closely this season, often beaming with pride as his son, Notre Dame safeties coach Bob Elliott, has resurrected a coaching career that was derailed by cancer.

“It’s a wonderful thing to see,” the elder Elliott told Hansen. “I’m really proud of my son, with the way he’s handled things. He’s faced a lot of adversity and has not shied away from it. He’s been strong and tough, and I really respect him for that. I’m so proud to be his father.”

The younger Elliott’s story is one we’ve told before but worth repeating. Elliott was the bright and energetic defensive coordinator for legendary Iowa coach Hayden Fry. But when Fry retired after the 1988 season, Elliott was in the throws of battling the blood cancer polycynthemia vera, and in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant.

Instead of replacing Fry, Elliott walked away from coaching to recapture his health, something he’s done successfully, now 14 years removed from his dangerous bout.

It’s amazing to see the immediate chemistry Elliott has had with the defense, working under two former players in Bob Diaco and Kerry Cooks. Elliott has been a calming influence for a position that lost Chuck Martin to the offense, lost lynchpin Harrison Smith to graduation, and Austin Collinsworth and Jamoris Slaughter to injuries.

With Zeke Motta and Matthias Farley, the group hasn’t missed a beat. That’s thanks to the great work of Elliott.

  1. nudeman - Dec 25, 2012 at 1:54 PM

    Great article Keith, and Merry Christmas to you too.
    A few thoughts:

    1) Jackson … on a team with more talent and a better coach, we’d be talking a LOT more about him. The guy was solid, but the head coach knew less about offense than I do about engineering a nuclear submarine.

    2) Crist … I still say there is something there to the story that’s never been unearthed. There was the thing about Crist and other players meeting with Weis the week of the USC game, which if true would be terrible judgment on the part of both Crist AND Weis, and whoever else was there. But even that doesn’t fully explain his demise as he had already lost his job by then. It might be as simple as BK just thought he couldn’t play the position at an acceptable level. Or both. Or something else we don’t know about.

    3) Elliott is awesome. I thought Smith and Motta were stiffs but he turned them both into real players. Smith has had a solid year as the Vikes starting safety. Motta will probably get picked in the first 3-4 rounds.

  2. barneysbullet - Dec 25, 2012 at 3:15 PM

    Merry Christmas Keith and thanks for everything this year!!

    …and Happy Holidays to ND nation/planet! :)

  3. twebb2 - Dec 25, 2012 at 9:43 PM

    I’ve been keeping an eye on Christ at Kansas, and it’s too bad how it’s turned out. But they guy is still class, class, class. I don’t know if he’ll make it in the NFL – it’s hard for anyone, only 2% of college players make it – but overall, that guy will never be a loser!

  4. jerseyshorendfan1 - Dec 25, 2012 at 11:42 PM

    Keith, Merry Christmas and all the best to you and yours! Keep up the good work, you’ll soon be writing about our championship season.

    • jerseyshorendfan1 - Dec 26, 2012 at 12:09 AM

      P.S. What is wrong with this world? Why would anyone give Dayne Crist a death threat? I woke up on Christmas Eve morning to the news of the four firemen who were ambushed by some psycho in upstate NY. It is hard to stay positive with all the evil in the world lately, but it appears that Crist is doing a helluva job. I hope he makes it to the bigs but if he doesn’t maybe he can use his degree to represent some of his brothers who do. I wish him nothing but the best, always having thought he kinda did get the shaft at ND.

      • nudeman - Dec 27, 2012 at 11:13 AM

        There are idiots everywhere

        Last week someone here posted a “best wishes” message to the son of BostonJan who had a bad fall and a brain injury. He got a thumbs down for that.

        There’s one poster here who trolls through the comments section just so he can give thumbs down to otherwise respectable comments. It apparently makes his day. This isn’t as bad as a death threat because you don’t like how someone is playing QB, but comes from the same small minded POS type thinking.

        Nothing you can do about the clowns.
        They’re everywhere. Don’t judge, just identify.

  5. yaketyyacc - Dec 26, 2012 at 4:24 AM

    tis the season to be jolly! eh, football season that is. for Notre Dame followers, it has made the Christmas season even more joyful. and filling in with pertinent and concise commentary, we have to thank you Keith Arnold.
    for those who left Notre Dame, we wish you the best. life moves in funny ways, and it may for them. saying it far better than we could, ….the stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
    And a Happy New Year awaits in Miami….

  6. runners00 - Dec 26, 2012 at 12:35 PM

    I have been looking for an analysis of Alabama vs. Notre Dame in the trenches. It’s hard to find. We see a lot of stories comparing how our defensive line is vs their defensive line. And we see a lot on individual players and the like, but not a lot about how the Fightin Irish front seven match up to Alabama’s offensive line, which some have said is the best the school has had since the days of John Hannah and Dwight Stevenson.

    So. Here is my rough take of how we will do when we are playing defense.

    We generally play a three-four defense, with Nix, Tuitt and Kapron Lewis Moore up front and with Spond, Te’o, Shembo and Fox as linebackers. Alabama’s offensive line consists of the seniors Jones (C) and Warmack (G), juniors Fluker (T) and Steen (G) and the sophomore tackle Kouandjio. Nix will likely garner a fair amount of attention as Alabama tries to use its powerful rushing attack to grind out yards. They’re third in the country in rushing, with about 5.8 yards/carry, and even against good defenses like LSU’s they rushed for over 6 yards/carry. I’ve thought, since we learned of our opponent in the BCS title game, that Alabama’s stats were padded because of the weak non-conference schedule. On the rushing game, though, this conclusion is not supported by facts. Simply, their offensive line creates holes for their running backs and this explains their ridiculous 6 yards/carry average

    That said, Texas A&M beat the Tide and held Alabama to just 3.9 yards/carry. That is the magic number: Nix; Tuitt and Moore (as well as our linebacking core) have to drop the rush to below 4 yards/carry. Can they do it? The most efficient rushing attack we faced, actually, was Michigan’s, which averaged about 5 yards/carry. We held the Wolverines to 3.9 yards/carry. Stanford averaged about 4.4 yards/carry and we held them to 3.7 yards/carry. Those are nice numbers, but given how efficient Alabama is, we’re going to need to work a lot harder against them than against Stanford or Michigan or Oklahoma.

    I know a lot of folks put stock in the talent on the field. I’m not as big of a fan of this approach as others because I think coaching has a lot to do with output. We’re a perfect example of that: for years — decades, actually — Notre Dame had good players who underachieved, at least according to things like recruiting class strength and the like. But, I do think that there is value in checking out the talent up front: The sophomore Kouandjio is the five-star recruit from Maryland. He playes with Jones and Fluker, two four-star recruits. The two guards, Warmack and Steen, are three-star recruits.

    On our side, Tuitt is the 5 and Nix and KLM are 4-star recruits. This unit works nicely with our linebackers, the 5-star recruit Te’o and the four-star recruits Shembo, Spond and Fox. Can we get penetration and stifle their running game? I’m cautiously optimistic. We haven’t played an opponent like Alabama yet. If we get the pentration we need, it will be because these kids are going to play really well for the entire four quarters.

    A team doesn’t average 6 yards/carry without overachieving. Alabama’s played very well against all kinds of defensive schemes. No, they haven’t seen the likes of Tuitt or Fox or Te’o. But our front-seven is going to have to play really well against this offensive line in order to stop this rushing attack. And if we do, I think we can get into Alabama’s backfield or at least hold our ground, thereby stopping their rushing attack. It’s going to be a tough slog, but we’ve got to get it done.

    • papadec - Dec 27, 2012 at 4:25 AM

      runners – very nice analysis – thank you. Does that 5.8 yards/rush for “Bama include their games vs the glorified HS teams they played? OR, just the big boys?

      • runners00 - Dec 27, 2012 at 9:42 AM

        The average includes everybody they played (but to your point, they did play a lot of cupcakes)

  7. smurphdoggy29 - Dec 26, 2012 at 12:48 PM

    Merry Christmas Keith and all the Inside the Irish community !
    Sorry for being a tad late, but it is heartfelt !
    From Ft. Myer’s Florida here is hoping January 7th is as Merry as Christmas !

  8. boyshole25 - Dec 26, 2012 at 12:58 PM

    Enjoy it nd fans! Bama is gonna smack ya bad

    • papadec - Dec 27, 2012 at 4:26 AM

      Oh good grief another troll! Must be getting crowded under the bridge!

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