-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)
Brian Kelly is an offensive genius. This much we know.
We also know it hasn’t really mattered much who took snaps for his offense, since whoever was under center produced in true EA Sports fashion.
With preseason expectations sweeping through South Bend with more gusto than a stiff Lake Michigan westerly, Kelly still has one major decision to make before the start of his second year as Irish head coach.
Who is Notre Dame’s starting quarterback?
Meet the candidates:
#10: Dayne Crist, 6-4, 235, SR
2010: 2,033 yards, 15 TD, 7 INT, 74 rush yards, 4 TD, 4-3 record
#11: Tommy Rees, 6-2, 210, SO(pictured)
2010: 1,106 yards, 12 TD, 8 INT, -2 rush yards, 4-1 record
#12: Andrew Hendrix, 6-2, 218, FR
#5: Everett Golson, 6-0, 170, FR
Yes, technically Crist started the Tulsa game – which was a 28-27 loss. But he threw only two passes before his second straight season-ending knee injury. Rees threw 54 passes for 334 yards and four touchdowns in that game. But he threw three interceptions too, so if a “W” or “L” has to go on someone’s ledger, I place it on the guy who played in the game.
And yes, technically, Kelly has called it a four-man race. Both Hendrix and Golson have played well since the spring and certainly give Irish faithful a sense of security when looking toward the future. But for all intents and purposes, it is a two-horseman race between Crist and Rees.
Crist has all the natural ability to excel not only on Saturdays, but Sundays too. He is bigger, taller, faster, stronger, older, has a better arm and has much more experience. He also threw one fewer interceptions than Rees in 130 more pass attempts. But Rees is a gamer, a regular Johnny Overacheiver. And he wins.
Crist claims he is perfectly healthy and says he has made large strides in his development process since the spring. He will need to improve his career 58.5-percent completion rate in order to prove he has taken the next step. Oh, and staying on the field would help too.
Rees is the son of a coach, makes good decisions and has yet to lose a game as the starter. As a true freshman, he led the Irish to four straight wins over Utah, Army, USC and Miami to wrap up the 2010 season. No small feat.
However, one could argue simply that the defense was the reason Notre Dame finished with such a flurry. Manti Te’o and company allowed a total of 39 points over those last four contests, surrendering 184 passing yards and 91 rushing yards per game. The Irish defense allowed 165 yards rushing per game in the first nine games, at a generous 4.5-yard clip. It ranked 80th in rushing and total defense following the loss to Tulsa.
In 126 carries faced in the final four games, the Golden Domers held opponents to a nasty 2.9 average, finishing the season ranked 50th in rushing and total defense.
Kelly has stated he won’t announce his starter until after the 19th practice of August and the reps have been evenly divided between the two. The two signal-callers have said all the right things and appear to be having fun with the competition.
But make no mistake, they are both out for blood.
This is Notre Dame after all.
Athlon Sports Prediction: Dayne Crist
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