With the start of training camp just a few short weeks away, I will examine the Notre Dame roster, position-by-position, over the next several weeks leading up to the start of the regular season on the first Saturday in September.
First up will be the quarterbacks, which was a position that had a lot of turnover during Brian Kelly’s first season at the helm in South Bend. By only the second game of the season in 2011, Kelly had already used three quarterbacks due to an injury to his starter and poor play from one his backups.
This group may be short on game experience, but it is one of the most talented units on the Notre Dame roster. Lets take a look at the position shall we?
Dayne Crist: 2010 was suppose to be the season where Crist showed why he was so highly thought of by coaches when he came out of high school. He was finally the starter after spending his first two seasons behind Jimmy Clausen backing up the now Carolina Panther. All of it ended up being was a season of disappointment.
The now senior QB only managed to play in nine games after suffering a season ending knee injury in the game against Tulsa. Crist suffered a serious knee injury the year previous in a game against Washington State on the turf in San Antonio.
The injuries don’t end there for him. Crist suffered an eye injury in the Michigan game, which made him miss significant time in the first half against the Wolverines. If the quarterback would have stayed healthy, there probably have been a much different result in the game and instead of starting the season off at .500, the Irish would have been 2-0.
Despite the injuries and the complaints from many fans of his inconsistent play, Crist had a pretty solid season in his first season as the team’s starter under center. Remind you, he was playing n a new system that he has never played in before. Kelly’s spread system needs a quarterback to make quick reads and adjust to defenses quickly. Crist struggled early on, but he got better as the season went on.
Even though his season ended in the Tulsa game, Crist finished up the year with some good numbers throwing 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions. His best game came on the road against Michigan State where he threw for 369 yards and four TD’s with only a lone pick. Sadly for Crist and his teammates, the Irish would lose on a last second fake field goal that went for a TD.
From all indications, Crist appears to be 100 percent ready for the start of training game slated for the first week of August. He was actually ahead of schedule coming off the surgery all the way back in the beginning of the season. That is a testament to his work ethic and the drive he has to be this team’s starter going forward.
Final 2010 Stats: 2,033 Yards, 59.2 Percent Completion Percentage, 15 TD’s, 7 INT’s
Tommy Rees: After Crist went down with the knee injury during the Tulsa game, things were looking pretty bleak for Kelly and company going forward the rest of the season. After Crist on the depth chart, the remaining Irish QB’s had zero game experience, which was clear in the Michigan game
Rees was one of thee guys who saw action in that game, but was taken out quickly after throwing two incomplete passes. He saw some action in garbage time against Navy a few weeks later, completing six of his seven passes for 79 yards, but it was the Tulsa game where we really saw what the then freshman could do under center.
In his first meaningful time at the collegiate level, Rees would go on to throw an eye-popping 54 passes in that game against Tulsa. He would complete 33 of them and also threw for four scores, but Rees also forced many passes, three of which were picked off by Tulsa defenders. That would be the last time we would really see Rees struggle the rest of the season.
After the Tulsa loss, the new freshman starter would go on to lead his team to four straight wins to close out the season, which included a huge win on the road against Southern Cal and a blowout bowl win against Miami in the Hyundai Sun Bowl in El Paso.
Over those four wins, we really learned what Rees was made of. Not highly recruited coming out of high school, Rees didnt feature a big arm and he didn’t have great speed or height. Heck, it is hard to find one thing that Rees did tremendously well, but the kid proved he is a winner and one of the smarter players on the entire roster.
Those are two of the big things you ask for out of your starting quarterback and Rees certainly showed that he has both of those features.
Final 2010 Stats: 1,106 Yards, 61 Percent Completion Percentage, 12 TD’s, 8 INT’s
Andrew Hendrix: Hendrix is actually the complete opposite of Rees in every way possible. He was one of the most highly recruited quarterbacks in the country two recruiting seasons ago, he has ideal height for a QB at 6’3″ and he has very good arm strength and good enough speed in and out the pocket to cause some teams problems.
Unlike Rees though, Hendrix didn’t get to see any time on the field in 2010, despite the clamoring of many Irish fans for him to do so.
That doesn’t mean he won’t see any meaningful minutes during his sophomore season though. Most would agree that Hendrix is probably the best fit for Kelly’s system out of the first four quarterbacks on the depth chart because of his size, his very good athleticism and his knowledge of the spread system.
Only time will tell, however, if Hendrix can skip over two guys on the depth chart to become this team’s starter for the season opener. Most oddsmakers would bet against it.
Final 2010 Stats: No Stats
Everett Golson: There wasn’t a more talked recruit from Irish fans in 2011 class than Mr. Golson. Listed at about 6-foot, but actually around 5’11″, Golson showed during the Blue-Gold Game in March what Notre Dame has for the future at the position going forward.
Even though he may be short in stature, Golson more than makes up for it with his presence in the huddle. Despite only going to be a true freshman, several of his teammates have already said how great of a leader that Golson is when he calls plays in the huddle.
Golson is also a freakish athlete as well. In the snaps that he received during the spring game, the young QB showed how explosive he can be whenever he gets out of the pocket. Golson had a number of beautiful runs, juking out defenders to grab extra yardage.
Along with his athleticism and his speed getting out of the pocket, Golson has underrated arm strength as well. When he wasn’t scrambling for a first down in the game, the first-year collegiate player showed zip on passes and solid accuracy when he needed to do so.
The Irish haven’t had a quarterback like Golson in years with his mixture of athleticism and arm strength. He may not see the field in his first season under center, but don’t be surprised to see Kelly get him involved in the offense in some way throughout parts of the 2011 campaign.
Final 2010 Stats: High School Senior
Final Predictions for 2011 Season: Despite fans wanting to see Hendrix and Golson under center for 2011, I highly doubt we will see either this season, unless of course injuries happen to both Crist and Rees. Hendrix and Golson are the future, Crist and Rees are the two who should be given starting consideration now.
Mr. Kelly has a better feel for his quarterbacks than me though and I trust his judgment whatever his decision ends up being.
I am high on Rees, especially when you get the opinions of the majority of Irish fans. I think he has tools that you need out of your quarterback, but I see Crist being this team’s starter when the season opens up in September. At the very least, he deserves to be this team’s starter with all the work that he has put in to get back from yet another knee injury.
Year Two in Kelly’s offense will do wonders for Crist on so many levels. We saw him make tremendous strides in the latter half of the season, but the unfortunate knee injury cut his season short again. If he wouldn’t have suffered that injury, he would be this team’s unquestioned guy under center at the moment.
The injury may have been bad for Crist and of course the Irish at the moment, but it could do wonders for them if Crist were to go down once again in 2011.
Just imagine if Crist would have played in every single minute last season and he suffered an injury at some point this year? Rees wouldn’t have that experience he got last season. The Irish season would suddenly be jeopardy if Crist were out for an extended period of time.
That wouldn’t be the case now. Rees has the experience and the record to back it up. Can anyone actually remember the last time an Irish QB finished off the season with four straight wins, including a bowl win? You have to go back a couple of decades to find the answer to that question.
The quarterback position will be the biggest question for many critics of this Irish team heading into the season, but if Crist is 100 percent and plays like he is capable of playing, Kelly and company could very well be celebrating a BCS bowl victory in early January.