Eventually we had to get to the quarterback, right? No matter what position players you have or how talented they are, the quarterback needs to perform at a high level or you just don’t have a chance. Such is the case with Notre Dame this season which leads us to our third most important players for 2011, senior QB Dayne Crist.
Crist makes this list for a few reasons. One, as we just mentioned, he’s a quarterback and quarterback is the most important position on the field. But Crist’s importance extends beyond just what position he plays. His presence alone gives him a major role on this team regardless of his production on the field.
Not that that production is bad. In his first season as the starting quarterback, Crist put up decent enough numbers: 59.2% completion percentage, 2,033 yards, 15 touchdowns, and seven picks while leading the Irish to four wins. Certainly he made some poor decisions at times. I know he’d love to have a couple throws back against Michigan State and, for sure, he’d like to have another crack at Navy, but he has the tools to be a great quarterback.
He’s not the prototypical signal caller for a Brian Kelly offense, but he doesn’t have to be to lead this team to BCS-level play. Tony Pike wasn’t the QB Kelly wanted, but he led Cincinnati to the Sugar Bowl. Crist is very similar to Pike in terms of the type of quarterback he is, but better and more talented. He can be the QB to lead the Irish back to the elite.
Two things that hold Crist back, however, is his questionable durability and what his exact role will be this year. Each of the past two seasons has seen Crist go down with a major knee injury. Plus, he got knocked loopy against Michigan last season causing him to miss most of the first half and maybe helping cost the Irish the victory. The second problem with Crist is the fact that we don’t even know if he will be the starter this season or not. With Tommy Rees back, who also led ND to four wins in Crist’s absence, and young guns Andrew Hendrix and Everett Golson, who both better fit Kelly’s system, on the roster, Crist has quite a bit of competition. Count me among those who believe he will be the starter come September 3rd. I don’t know if he’ll be the starter at the end of the season, but at least initially he will be the man under center.
But even if he’s not the starter, or loses his job one way or the other, Dayne Crist remains important to this team because of the leadership he brings to this program. Whatever the case may be, if Dayne Crist is not the starter for the Fighting Irish, you know he’s not going to pout and become a distraction to the team. Rather, he’ll be the first guy there to help whomever takes over as the quarterback. Whether it’s breaking down film, or assisting in play calls, reading defenses, talking through the game plan, or just giving a pick-me-up, Crist will do it. He’d, in effect, become an extra coach on the sidelines. That can be a valuable asset.
Of course, that’s only if Crist get injured again or can’t perform at the level he needs to play. All signs point to him having a great season at the quarterback spot. Last year, he’s needed to learn a completely new system, new plays, new coaching. You need time to really absorb it all. Year two is when the “leap” should be made. Crist should make that leap this year. If he does, and can stay healthy, it would be no surprise to see the Irish back in a BCS bowl.