Aug. 31, 2011
Q. You have been through an opening day as a starter before. How is this one different from your last one?
Dayne Crist: I think this is a little different in that I’ve done it before. 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.
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. A more mature time, I think.
Q. Coach Kelly had mentioned to you last year that at times it’s okay to show your emotion, it’s okay to be emotional. As you bring this team out onto the field for the first game of the year, how do you balance being less excited and more businesslike with showing the kind of emotion that a football team needs to be successful?
Dayne Crist: 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 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.
Q. Last year you were surrounded by an entire team that was getting used to a new system. Now you’re surrounded by a team that is used to and, at the end of the year, excelled at that system. How much easier does it make it for you to do your job in that situation?
Dayne Crist: I think it’s a lot easier, just knowing that everyone around you is playing a lot more confident, has that experience that they gained last year and have proven that they can go out there and make plays and deliver based on what we’re being asked to do.
More than anything, I think there’s an excitement level. I think there’s a confidence level. Really guys just want to get going, want Saturday to come around.
Q. Dayne, comparing last year opening game to this year opening game as an offense, what more can you guys do? How much more open is the playbook? How much longer is the call sheet?
Dayne Crist: I mean, I don’t know specifics or anything like that. I know that we know how to run these plays, and Coach (Kelly) understands what we run well, and we’ve been practicing things we do well. I think last year anything that was called, whether you felt good or not about it, we didn’t have any evidence that we could run it in a game and be successful.
So we know as players a lot more within plays and can do a lot more within the same plays that were called last year, but just having that knowledge base this year, we can do a lot more with it, whether it’s checking in some new plays or receivers running different routes based on what they see and what the coverage is and things like that. I think that we’re doing a lot more in that regard. I don’t know if it’s X amount more plays we’re running this year based on last year, but we’re running plays we know we can be successful at, and we’re running those pretty well.
Q. I asked a couple of guys if there was something they could do now that they couldn’t do last year. Can you think of an example of something that you couldn’t do or just weren’t comfortable doing last year in this offense that you can do today?
Dayne Crist: I think the biggest thing is setting protections. 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. But 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.
Q. Speaking of protections, how many do you guys normally employ over the course of a game?
Dayne Crist: We’ve got a bunch that I think are always in. Week to week, it’s going to it will 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. But we’ve got the full arsenal every week. So guys understand that, and guys are always ready to go with everything we have. But all in basically.
Q. In general, is having more protections, is that better, or is that like anything else? You have to do them well in order to be successful?
Dayne Crist: Yeah, I think you have to do them well. Guys understand that we can get to anything. That’s more stuff that gets done in practice. We’re making sure that we’re showing that we can do them right in practice. That way we’re not going into the game blind and not knowing what to do. But like you said, obviously being able to do things well is the most important thing. You know, in doing them well, that’s when Coach Kelly has more confidence in what to call and things like that.
Q. I think South Florida only gave up 21 or more four times in the regular season last year. What are the keys to success against this defense?
Dayne Crist: We’ve got to play smart. 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.
Q. Is protecting the ball the first game of the year the most difficult game of the year to do that?
Dayne Crist: You know, it’s tough to say because there’s obviously a huge amount of stress placed upon that theme, but, again, you’re excited. You’re trying to make plays. I think that, like I said before, you’ll see a much more mature offense this time around.
Q. Do you feel you have something to prove, and if so, to whom?
Dayne Crist: I’m not trying to prove anything to anyone but myself. 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.
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.
Q. The question I’m asking various people about their recruiting experience when they came here. First of all, what time of year did you visit here?
Dayne Crist: Like in high school?
Dayne Crist: March, I believe. March or April.
Q. And how was Notre Dame different than maybe what you anticipated before you got here?
Dayne Crist: I’d never seen snow before so that was different. I mean, my first time at Notre Dame, I really didn’t know a whole lot, to be perfectly honest with you. I came just because I knew of Notre Dame. I knew about the tradition. But other than that, I didn’t really know a whole lot.
But I was absolutely blown away from the first time I set foot on campus and knew it was the right place for me. I’m incredibly happy with the decision to come here and haven’t thought about it since.
Q. How sure were you that you were going to come here when you left campus after your visit?
Dayne Crist: Probably not right away, like I wasn’t 100 percent sure, but it shocked me enough and flustered me enough the way I was thinking about other schools to where I was I knew I had to think about it and revisit it a little bit more. Within a week, I knew it was the place I wanted to be.
Q. And what was it about the place?
Dayne Crist: It’s tough to pinpoint one thing. I think that you kind of know when you visit other schools whether you can fit in there. Talking with my parents, if football was completely taken out of the picture, could you love going to school here? The answer was yes for me. Academically, athletically, socially all of those things tied into what I was looking for in a university, and I found all those things at Notre Dame.
Q. Just curious, when you were coming back from this second knee injury, what was it that kept you going through the maybe the bad rehab days or the infection when spring practice wasn’t going right. What pushed you?
Dayne Crist: It may sound cliche, but the love of the game. I can’t tell you how much football means to me and what a big part of my life football has been since I can remember. Since I was six years old and playing football in Pop Warner. It means so much to me, this team means so much to me, and this University means so much to me, that if it wasn’t just this sheer love of the game, it was all these other people that I wanted to go out and play with and compete with and be successful with.
Sure, rehab is tough. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t. There are some dark times. If you don’t love it, it’s pretty easy to quit and give in. Those thoughts never really crossed my mind because of how much I love football and how much I love the University.
Q. Having a guy that overcame kind of similar injuries in Jason White, was that nice to have that out there for you that you knew somebody had done it?
Dayne Crist: I think it was. And a close friend of mine texted me after he found out I got hurt and kind of reminded me of that. He’s actually an Oklahoma fan so it was good for him to call on that. Just hearing that and just seeing evidence that it could be done, that was nice.
I think that I had a pretty strong internal motivation and drive to get back, but seeing concrete examples of guys bouncing back and being successful, you know, that was definitely positive for me, and I think I needed that. More than anything, it was just wanting to be back and wanting to be with my teammates and just wishing more than anything I could be competing with those guys because that’s what I love to do.
Q. I ask you this about each knee surgery. Did there come I time when you got up and didn’t think about your knee? You just got up and time to brush my teeth and didn’t think, I had knee surgery. I wonder how it feels today.
Dayne Crist: Yeah, I mean, once you get in a system initially, obviously, you’re in a lot of pain, and you’re feeling sorry for yourself a little bit. But at the end of the day, life goes on, and it’s going to go on whether you’re ready to go or positive that day or negative that day, it doesn’t matter. Life’s going to go on. You’ve got to make the most of it. So once you got in the routine of going to rehab and things like that and pushing through some things that were a little uncomfortable, that’s about like a month in. Then you just get back to work and do what you need to do and go about your business.
Q. Since you were told that you were going to be the number one quarterback, what have your practices been like, and what’s your confidence been like?
Dayne Crist: I think the biggest thing is just not showing any complacency. Showing that I’m grateful and I understand what it means and what a privilege it is to be the quarterback of Notre Dame. But I also understand the expectations that are there and what needs to get done, the production level that needs to be put in place every week. I’ve just been trying to improve every day and not just settle for what we’ve done and what we’ve accomplished so far, but instead try to get better and make this team as good as we can possibly be.
Q. Robby Toma received a lot of praise from the coaching staff so far in camp. We saw glimpses of what he could do last year. How has he changed as far as his leadership and what he’s capable of on the field, and how much confidence do you have in him?
Dayne Crist: I have all the confidence in the world in Robby Toma. I can’t say enough good things about him. Whether it’s his work ethic or his demeanor, when he steps foot in this building, he’s getting himself better. He’s got some of the best hands on the team. I could probably count on two hands how many balls I’ve seen him drop since he’s been here. He’s just a tough guy.
I mean, obviously, you see a guy, and you look at him and think, maybe he’s a little undersized. What is this guy doing? He can play. He’s a competitor. He can play with the best of them. He understands his game. He understands his limitations, and he makes the most of his opportunities. I think that’s the biggest thing that Robby’s done. Now that you’re seeing a little bit the praise that he’s getting, I think it’s really him making the most of his opportunities.
When he’s out there, he knows what he’s doing. He’s got, like I said, all the confidence in the world in a guy like that.
Q. Talking to Coach Molnar last week, he said one of the biggest changes in your practice habits right now is you’re getting more work than you’ve been getting. Can you quantify that or talk about how much more you’re able to get done in practice because there’s not as much split of reps anymore or severe split of reps?
Dayne Crist: That makes all the difference. The amount of reps you’re getting, that’s the only way you can really gauge where you’re at. With more reps comes more experience, and you can’t get enough good experience.
I think being able to kind of hone in on a bigger portion of reps and really just focus on those, I think it’s helped a great deal. Just really helps with timing and overall just management of the offense. Obviously, I love having those additional reps, and I think it makes a big difference.
Q. Talking to your teammates, a bunch of them kind of mentioned they used the term, he deserved it. Did you feel that way? There’s a lot that kind of goes into that.
Dayne Crist: Sure, selfishly, I’ll say yes. But I don’t think it’s for any other reason than I worked as hard as I possibly can, and I left the field with no regrets. There wasn’t a day where I said, man, I wish I didn’t have this day. I wish I could have this day back. More than anything, each day in camp, I understood how important each day was, and I knew I couldn’t leave anything on the field. That’s got to be my mindset as long as I’m here.
I think that being able to kind of act upon that mindset and act upon that theme really helped me get to where I am now. Now it’s about continuing to produce and doing everything I can to make the team better.
Q. You said you don’t have anything to prove but to yourself. I guess what do you have to prove to yourself?
Dayne Crist: Just that I can continue to produce, that I can play this game at the highest level and that I can help this team win.