NOTRE DAME, Ind. – As the Fighting Irish continue preparing for their home opener against South Florida, starting quarterback Dayne Crist sat down with the media on Wednesday to discuss how he plans on managing the offense.
The first thing Crist noted was the confidence level he feels at the start of this year compared to going into week one last season.
“I think this is a little different in that I’ve done it before,” he said. “Last year everything was new to me. Just the game day experience, just the pageantry of college football as the starting quarterback, that was all new to me. I had some jitters last year on opening day and I was overly excited, understandably so.”
Crist played well in last year’s opener, going 19-for-26, for a total of 205 yards passing, as the Irish defeated Purdue, 23-12.
“This year, I will obviously be incredibly excited to start the season and finally get to go out and compete against some other guys, but it will be a lot more of a calming experience for me,” said Crist.
Crist hopes that his experience and calm demeanor will rub off on the rest of the team, especially the players who will see their first playing time at the collegiate level.
“I think initially it’s going out there and being loose, especially taking in some of the younger guys that are going to have to contribute for us on Saturday, and making sure that they’re relaxed and they understand that it’s business time and they can go out and play,” the senior added.“The more loose you go out initially, I think the more confident you play. I think that’s kind of one of the traits we want to exhibit as a team this year.”
As Crist and the rest of the offense have gotten more familiar with head coach Brian Kelly’s offense, the quarterback feels it will allow them to make better pre-snap adjustments during the game.
“I think the biggest thing is setting protections,” Crist said of his growth as the signal caller. “I’m so much more comfortable doing that and understanding how our protections work. You know, maybe I was just at the forefront of what we needed to do and what my knowledge base was in regards to that.
“I think now I’ve got a much deeper knowledge base, and we’ve done a great job at offensive line and at the quarterback spot, making sure we’re in the right protection on every play. I think that’s a big thing that has to get done from the quarterback position.”
Crist elaborated on how the evolution of his game management abilities, coupled with the offensive line’s better understanding of their assignments, allows the offense to prepare more efficiently for their opponents.
“We’ve got a bunch that I think are always in,” Crist said of the team’s protection packages. “Week to week, it’s going to vary based on what defenses that we’re going to see and what we think we’re going to face. Whether it’s a three-down team, four-down team, what kind of blitz percentage they show. We’ve got the full arsenal every week. So guys understand that, and guys are always ready to go with everything we have.”
The senior knows the importance of planning ahead, and feels that everyone coming into this weekend focused is vital against a very stout USF defense.
“We’ve got to play smart,” said Crist. “We’ve got a great deal of respect for South Florida’s defense. As shown on film, they can continually make plays. They’re aggressive to the wall. Their secondary plays very well together, and as a defense, they play very well together. We’ve got to go in and play smart, limit mistakes, limit turnovers, and just like anything, protecting the ball has got to be the most important thing with this team because they can exploit any other mistakes we’ve made.”
Crist, who is coming off his second knee surgery in two years, is just excited to go out and get a chance to do what he is passionate about….playing football for Notre Dame.
“I’m not trying to prove anything to anyone but myself,” he said. “Just that I can go out there, that I’m fortunate enough to be out there playing again, and being with my best friends playing a game that I love. That’s the only thing that matters to me.”
As a senior on the team, and the leader of the offense, Crist feels comfortable being a mouthpiece for the rest of the players.
“I can speak for the whole team, and we want nothing but success for this team, and we’re going to do everything we can to compete for every minute of the game that we’re out there,” Crist stated.
With a long year of rehab and a highly publicized quarterback race behind him, Crist is finally ready to get back on the field and lead the Irish against all challengers.