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Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly picks his starting quarterback

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has pegged Dayne Crist as his starter quarterback. | AP

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has pegged Dayne Crist as his starter at quarterback. | AP

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Updated: August 23, 2011 12:56PM



And the winner is ... Dayne Crist.

“They had a great battle for that position but Dayne will be the starter and we hope he will be the starter for 13 weeks,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said while announcing that Crist and not sophomore Tommy Rees would start against South Florida on Sept .3. “We’re confident he can lead us to a championship.”

The announcement ended a quarterback competition that began after last season when both players had success at the position and continued during training camp. Last week, Kelly said the competition between Crist and Rees was so close that reviewing their statistics only made the decision murkier.

Although Kelly said both quarterbacks have improved tremendously since last season, what Crist has been able to overcome after suffering two serious knee injuries was a factor.

“You have to look at the entire year when you talk about Dane,” Kelly said. “Let’s look at Dane on a timeline. Here’s young man who overcame a serious knee injuries to start the season and then suffered another knee injury that required incredible rehab. An infection set him back even farther but he was able to get back for the spring. He didn’t have a great spring but fought through that as well. To have the kind of summer and preseason camp he had put it in perspective where Dayne Crist is this year from last year. He’s a much better football player, a much better quarterback.

“Quite honestly, he’s the kind of guy I want to coach. He’s tougher mentally. He handles himself in that leadership situation the way we want him to handle it.”

Despite the history of knee injuries, Kelly said he has been impressed with Crist’s mobility during training camp, which was another factor in his favor.

“He has to,” Kelly said when asked if Crist can move out of the pocket when necessary. “He can’t play any other way. He has to play the game the way it comes to him. One of the things he did in camp is show great escapability. After two knee surgeries, he was able to move well and make plays. That was part of the decision-making process. We could not have someone who couldn’t extend plays in our offense.”

Rees, a Lake Forest product, took over when Crist was injured last season and led the team to four straight victories, including a 33-17 win over Miami in the Sun Bowl. While he is the clear-cut backup, Kelly said sophomore Andrew Hendrix and/or freshman Everett Golson could see playing time in a package that compliments their abilities.

“It was still about his growth and development as a quarterback as well,” Kelly said when asked about Rees’ 4-0 record as a starter. “He had things as a true freshman he had to get better at and he did. Tommy is a much better quarterback than he was last year.”



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