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Football: The future

Bill Brink | Thursday, August 28, 2008

Dayne Crist looked comfortable even though he had to collapse his 6-foot-4 frame into a folding seat. The freshman quarterback relaxed, with a charming smile and a buzz cut – a freshmen unity initiative, courtesy of the running backs – while answering questions about everything from learning a pro-style offense to his mother to whether, as a California boy, he had bought a winter coat yet.

He was unfazed and careful. The phrase, “Whatever coach Weis wants me to do…” came out of his mouth more than once, and he talked repeatedly about the healthy competition between the quarterbacks. His relationship with sophomore quarterback Jimmy Clausen, who he went to middle school with and who helped lure Crist to Notre Dame, drew a good deal of attention. He addressed it, as he did everything else, calmly, at once seeming innocent and mature.

“We’re both very competitive people. We both learn from each other,” Crist said of Clausen during freshmen media day on Aug. 22. “Even the time we’ve spent here, it seems like it’s only been a matter of months, but we’ve learned from each other greatly.”

Crist was a top recruit from Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, Calif. Rivals.com ranked him as the No. 25 prospect in the nation after he completed 58 percent of his passes for 2,178 yards and 16 touchdowns in his senior season. Early speculation is that he will redshirt, which would give him two years to start after Clausen graduates.

He said the toughest aspect of fall practice so far has been learning Notre Dame’s offensive system. It frustrated him at first, but he said he has a better grasp of it now.

“What a lot of people don’t remember is that it’s not a normal college system, it’s an NFL system,” he said. “You’re making an even larger jump. The terminology, the verbiage, and everything just jumps up.”

His next hurdle after understanding the playbook, he said, was being comfortable enough to make quick reads. He said plays now seem to be slowing down for him.

Crist and the other quarterbacks have a tight relationship off the field, he said, something that causes the rest of the team to poke fun at them.

“They kind of joke that the quarterbacks are always on their own thing; we really are,” Crist said.

Crist and freshman quarterback Nate Montana, Joe Montana’s son who hails from Concord, Calif., have trained together. They have the same quarterback coach, and Crist said the extra coaching can help nail down fundamentals in a way practices with Weis cannot.

“Obviously when you’re here everything is in tune with coach Weis’ system, very offensive-oriented,” he said. “You’re given a chance with the quarterback coach to kind of work on some mechanics. Footwork – you can never be too accurate.”

Not that Crist shuns Weis’ coaching; in fact, he feeds off of it. Weis’ attitude, he said, forces him to perform well.

“He tells it like it is,” Crist said. “He has a very challenging mood about him, and he’s going to try to bring the best out of you. That’s what you need as a quarterback, and that’s what was most appealing to me.”

Crist was excited about the other students getting back to school and said the team was on the rise heading into the season. How well it does is anyone’s guess, but his confidence in the squad’s abilities is unshaken.

“I see no reason why we shouldn’t be competing with the best teams in the nation this year,” he said. “Everyone’s on the same page.”

Regarding his own contributions, he said his drive to succeed will be present no matter what.

“You’re going to get a competitive nature from me every day I step on the field. That’s not going to cease regardless of what I do this year,” he said.