December 22, 2011
While USC is waiting on pins and needles to learn the fate of one former five-star quarterback recruit from Southern California, another has already broken the news: Per his Twitter feed, former Notre Dame starter Dayne Crist is on his way to Kansas, where he'll reunite with his old head coach, Charlie Weis, for his fifth and final season of eligibility. Crist should be immediately eligible next season as a grad student.
That comes as no surprise: Weis' reputation for molding prolific pocket passers may be the only part of his reputation that survived his tenure in South Bend relatively intact. His first quarterback there, Brady Quinn, smashed every Notre Dame passing record and left as a first-round draft pick on the heels of back-to-back BCS bowls; his successor, Jimmy Clausen, overcame a nightmarish start as a freshman with a surprisingly brilliant junior season in 2009 that made him a second-rounder.
The hype for Crist wasn't on the level of the circus that accompanied Clausen's arrival, but Crist certainly looked the part — Rivals ranked him ahead of the likes of Andrew Luck, Landry Jones and Jordan Jefferson in the incoming quarterback class of 2008 — and he was certainly being groomed as the heir apparent to Quinn and Clausen before the Fighting Irish kicked Weis to the curb in December 2009.
With the starting job to himself in 2010, Crist struggled through a mediocre start under his new coach, Brian Kelly, and was eventually forced to watch the Irish close on a 4-0 run under unsung freshman Tommy Rees after Crist went down with his second season-ending knee injury in late October. He recovered to beat Rees out for the starting job in August, an assignment that lasted barely two quarters before Kelly benched Crist for good in the Irish's season-opening loss to South Florida. And that was the end of that.
In Lawrence, Crist will immediately become one of the most touted players to ever put on a Kansas uniform, and god do they need him to deliver. For the second year in a row, the 2011 Jayhawks ranked last or next-to-last in the Big 12 in rushing offense, passing offense, total offense, scoring offense, third down offense and sacks allowed, taking KU out on a 10-game losing streak to end the season and the brief, miserable tenure of coach Turner Gill. Inexperience and inadequacy at quarterback was a big part of that. For one year, at least, Kansas will have a towering pocket passing who once had "future NFL draft pick" written all over him, running the offense he was originally recruited to run.
In the short term, it's a nice first step. In the long term, it doesn't mean much unless Weis can get the most out of his old protégé and build on that momentum. But then, he's already working on that.