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Irish Insights


Learning on the job

Notre Dame quarterback Dayne Crist is learning on the job.

And Saturday's 37-14 loss to Stanford in which nearly half of his 304 passing yards came after the Irish were down 34-6 was a big teaching moment.

"Yeah, it certainly was a game that provided so many opportunities for him to grow," coach Brian Kelly said of reviewing the game with Crist. "Not just from completions to incompletions, but in leadership and body language and all of the things that quarterbacks need to develop. He saw a lot of things. I think he learned quite a bit.

"Now, as I told him yesterday in our meetings, it's about retention. It's about making sure that we don't have to go down this road again. You know, there were some things that happened in the game that shouldn't be pinned on him either, but it is the nature of the quarterback position. And I think if you were to ask him tomorrow, when he gets a chance to talk to you, I think he probably saw a lot of things that are very valuable for him and his progress."

Part of Crist's progress in running the spread offense, after being Jimmy Clausen's understudy for two seasons in a pro-style system, will be becoming a threat to run the ball on occasion.

Kelly jokingly said that Notre Dame is preparing a package similar to Michigan's with quarterback Denard Robinson, who accounted for 502 of the Wolverines' 532 yards in a 28-24 win over the Irish on Sept. 11.

"We just have to do some things with (Crist's) speed right now," Kelly quipped.

On the serious side, Kelly did say it is important to have a mobile quarterback in the spread offense.

"There has to be an element in the spread that the quarterback can keep the football at some time, and we're moving in that direction," Kelly said. "He's got to have an element of that within our offensive structure."

Another thing that will help Crist in his development is the continued development of first-year starting center Braxston Cave.

Cave has struggled with his snaps at times, and Kelly said the center has to do a better job with his cadence so teams can't predict when he is going to snap the ball.

With backup Dan Wenger's future uncertain because of a concussion, the Irish have only third-string option Mike Golic Jr. and left guard Chris Watt to turn to if Cave's struggles continue.

"There are some growing pains there," Kelly said of Cave. He's got to be more firm with his snaps. His snaps have not been very good. So some of our concern with Braxston is less about who he's blocking and how he's blocking, though we always can get better there. We need a little bit better management of cadence and when the ball comes out and how it comes out.

"Dayne's had to catch too many balls below his knees, which takes his eyes off what we're trying to do offensively."