With hype and speculation sure to reach a fevered pitch this Blue Gold Weekend, a healthy dose of reality might be in order to measure everyone's expectations for Dayne Crist in his first year behind center. One way to gauge the offense's newly anointed leader is to look at what his predecessors accomplished in their first seasons. Quinn and Clausen are the most relevant comparisons. (I wanted to include the stats of all first year QBs dating back to the post-Tony Rice era, but I resisted. Relevance trumped nostalgia this go round. Apologies to all the Ron Powlus, Jarious Jackson, Carlyle Holiday, Rick Mirer, Kevin McDougal and Matt Lovecchio fans out there. Do Matt Lovecchio fans even exist beyond blood relatives?) Back to the comparison:
Clausen: 138-245 (56.3%), 1,254 yards, 7 TD, 6 INT
Quinn: 157-332 (47.3%), 1,831 yards, 9 TD, 15 INT
Granted, the circumstances of Quinn and Clausen getting thrown to the wolves as freshmen signal callers, coupled with sieves of offensive lines, skew these numbers a bit. Crist has spent two years acclimating to the college game and shouldn't have as steep a learning curve, nor the line woes (let's hope).
So maybe a more appropriate comparison would be the last three quarterbacks Brian Kelly has coached in their respective first seasons running his spread offense:
LeFevour: 247-388 (63.7%), 3,031 yards, 26 TD, 10 INT
Mauk: 235-386 (60.9%), 3,121 yards, 31 TD, 9 INT
Pike: 199-324 (61.4%), 2,407 yards, 19 TD, 11 INT
Kelly recruited Dan LeFevour to Central Michigan and coached him in 2006, his freshman year. (LeFevour would finish his career as the all-time NCAA leader with 150 total TDs and 2nd all-time in total offensive yards. That's NCAA history! Needless to say, Kelly has an eye for quarterbacks). When Kelly moved to Cincinnati in '07, he tabbed Ben Mauk as starter, a transfer from Wake Forest who started 10 games over two seasons before wrecking his throwing arm on a freak play. Mauk didn't have to sit out a year (his wiki explains) and adopted the Kelly offense with ease, leading the team to a 10-3 record and its first winning season in the Big East. Tony Pike fared the worst, statistically, of Kelly's first-timers, but outperformed Clausen and Quinn considerably.
A conservative estimate, an average of those three seasons, suggests the following year 1 totals:
Crist: 227-366 (62%), 2,853 yards, 25 TD, 10 INT
Not to read too far into extrapolating on other people's numbers, but this suggests a fairly reasonable expectation of the year ahead, given the circumstances. The numbers would dwarf the first impressions Quinn and Clausen made on Irish fans. If Crist matches or, heaven forbid, exceeds this estimate, ND Nation would be ecstatic and a new star would be born.
Only 134 days until these expectations take root in reality.