When Notre Dame takes the field to play South Florida on September 3, they’ll do it with Dayne Crist at the helm. After two weeks of solid competition that saw Crist and Tommy Rees separate themselves from sophomore Andrew Hendrix and freshman Everett Golson, head coach Brian Kelly tapped Crist as his starter, in a decision that came down to the narrowest of margins.
“We named a starting quarterback and that will be Dayne Crist,” Kelly announced a earlier this afternoon. “I expect Dayne to be the starter for 13 weeks. We have great confidence in his ability to lead us to a championship.”
Crist’s path to the starting quarterback job has been far more wayward than his rather forced ascension to the position last year, a role he inherited with little competition after Jimmy Clausen decided to leave early for the NFL. When Crist suffering a second straight season-ending major knee injury, a so-so debut season mixed with a 4-0 late-season run by Rees made the battle in preseason camp the primary storyline to watch for an Irish team looking to do big things this season.
If Notre Dame plans to make it back to the BCS, they’ll need to see a big leap forward from Crist in his senior season. It’s something Kelly already sees happening.
“He’s a much better football player, he’s a much better quarterback and quite frankly and honestly, he’s the kind of guy I want to coach,” Kelly said after making the decision. “He’s tougher mentally. He handles himself in a leadership position the way I want our quarterbacks to handle it.”
That the competition was so close wasn’t a referendum on Crist’s development process, but a sign that Rees also took great strides in his first full offseason with the program.
“Tommy also knows what he’s capable of doing,” Kelly said. “Tommy is a much better quarterback than the one he was last year.”
With Rees serving as a primary backup, Kelly kept his plans for Hendrix and Golson, two young players Kelly has continued to praise, close to the vest.
“All four quarterbacks are prepared to play and we’re prepared to play all four quarterbacks,” Kelly said.
Crist completed just over 59 percent of his passes last season for 2,033 yards with 15 touchdowns against seven interceptions. He was injured early in the season’s ninth game against Tulsa, almost a year to date after a torn ACL ended his 2009 season.