NOTRE DAME – The speculation is finally over. Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly announced on Tuesday that Senior Dayne Crist is officially returning as the starting quarterback for the 2011 season.
“Dayne will be our starter and I expect him to be the starter for thirteen weeks,” said Kelly.
The senior couldn’t be happier to get the job. "Obviously incredibly happy to be named the starter. Incredibly relieved,” said Crist.
The Fighting Irish started Fall Camp with four possible alternatives between Crist, Sophomore Tommy Rees, Sophomore Andrew Hendrix, and Freshman Everett Golson. Quickly it appeared that Crist and Rees were the two front runners.
Kelly stressed on Tuesday just how close the position battle was. “Both of those young men, and I mean Dayne and Tommy Rees, had a great battle for that starting position,” said Kelly.
Crist said he didn’t know for certain if he would get the job. "I’m confident in my ability, but I wasn't the one making the decision. It was Coach Kelly, but until I heard it from his lips, there’s always some level of uncertainty,” said Crist.
Kelly said he talked to the two front runners individually on Monday.
"Going into that meeting, I was going to find out one way or another what was going on,” said Crist.
Kelly said it’s impressive looking back at how far Crist has come after his setbacks last season.
“Let’s look at Dayne on a time line. Here’s a young man that overcame a serious knee injury to start the season,” said Kelly.
Crist tore his ACL against Washington State in 2009. Then almost a year later suffered from a torn patella against Tulsa in October of last year.
“Then suffered another knee injury, a severe knee injury that required incredible rehab, had an infection that put him back even further, was able to get himself ready for the spring,” said Kelly.
Crist said he, too, feels like he’s come far. "I think that I've overcome a lot since I've been here, but one thing that I think he [Kelly] now knows about me is that I'm a fighter. And I'm going to fight in every situation possible,” said Crist.
Kelly said it wasn’t just the physical side of the game he took into his selection. “He’s tougher mentally in that leadership position the way I want quarterbacks to handle,” said Kelly.
But there was one who didn’t get the job, and Crist said he talked to Rees soon after Kelly gave them each the news.
"We talked pretty soon after. We meet at similar times. I explained to him I need you to keep pushing me. I think that you’ve honestly made me a better quarterback,” said Crist.
Crist said of course they’ll remain friends long after football. The fact that both of them are team players probably helped the quarterback battle stay civil.
“If you removed either one of us from the equation we would've competed the same way. The way that we did was doing everything that we did to make ourselves better, and in doing so understand that we're making the team better and making the offense better,” said Crist.
With the quarterback debate over, it’s now time to look toward the season.
The good news is that the team is physically ready. “We feel really good about the health of our football team,” said Kelly.
Only incoming Freshman Eilar Hardy is still out for the entire season with an injury. Kelly said, “other than that we do not have any body that we would lose for the entire season.”
Kelly said that’s a nice change from his first season at Notre Dame. “It would be a great change from last year. We suffered way too many injuries last year,” said Kelly.
With Crist back in the lead, he’s said he’s moving on. "You're happy that you're name the starter, but it's about getting team ready for South Florida,” said Crist.
Notre Dame will match-up against University of South Florida on September 3rd at Notre Dame Stadium.