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Irish Insights

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Quarterback development

Any thoughts of Notre Dame possibly having a quarterback controversy would be a tremendous leap.

Though Dayne Crist watched the last 10 minutes of the Irish’s 35-17 loss to Navy from the sidelines, there is no chance freshman Tommy Rees – who finished the game – will make a serious challenge for the No. 1 QB job.

Crist had one of his least productive days against Navy, completing 19 of 31 passes for 178 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.

But that is just the continuation of a quarterback learning the spread offense and only making his eighth career start.

“It’s understanding that first and foremost, he’s the one that makes the big decisions,” Kelly said of Crist’s development. “I pointed to the 14-10 (deficit) and then turning it over right before (halftime) - we can’t have our quarterback turn the football over regardless of the circumstances. Those are the things we spend a lot of time on.

“Understanding the flow of game, time and place, how important it is to take a shot at this point. This is not a time you want to be risky. Those are conversations that are happening on the sideline, at practice, at dinner. Recognition of so many different coverage variations that he’s not used to. This is a continuous conversation. Some things clicked. One of the things that’s getting better, he’s being a lot more physical when he puts the football underneath his arm and runs. And finishing off some runs. There are so many moving parts to get him to be the complete player. That dialogue takes place every day in every kind of circumstance."

As for Rees, the freshman completed 6 of 7 passes for 79 yards and led a scoring drive of 10 plays and 76 yards.

But that came when the game was well out of hand, and it had more to do with seeing what Rees can do in live action.

“We feel like he’s a guy that can distribute the football, he recognizes the field pretty good in the spread, he’s comfortable back there,” Kelly said of Rees. “It’s more about finding what his strengths are. This is more about developing who those guys are and their strengths more than anything else. There is a lot more confidence now that, if our quarterback gets dinged up, we can insert (Rees) or Nate (Montana) and run a particular package that can be effective.”

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