It's probably a bit of an overstatement to say the entire 2012 season rests on the shoulders of Dayne Crist.
Just most of it.
It sort of goes without saying these days that quarterback is the most important position on the football field. It's a cliche that has been true practically since the game's invention, but is particularly applicable today - where spread offenses and complex passing attacks are the norm. There are exceptions, yes, but the correlation between great quarterback play and great teams is difficult to ignore. Andrew Luck and Stanford. Robert Griffin III and Baylor. Even Todd Reesing and the 2007 Kansas Jayhawks. The list goes on and on.
For the past two seasons, the quarterback play in Lawrence, Kan. has been something less than remarkable. This is not meant to tear down Jordan Webb - the starter under center for much of that time - as the past is past, after all, and few can argue that Webb left everything he had on the field each and every game.
But Crist is a horse of an entirely different color. An individual who looks as if he were tailor-made to play quarterback. 6-foot-4, 235 pounds and experienced, with a rocket for a right arm. His career may not have gone as he imagined it would when he signed with Charlie Weis and Notre Dame as a prep star in 2008, but life has a way of throwing twists into the best laid plans.
Weis was let go as head coach of the Fighting Irish halfway through Crist's career, just as he was preparing to take over the reigns as the starting quarterback. In came Brian Kelly, who replaced Weis' pro-style approach with a spread attack. The system never seemed a good fit for Crist's skill set, and it didn't help matters that he had to battle back from a number of injuries.
And so he wound up at Kansas, reunited with the coaches who recruited him, including quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus, and the system with which he is so familiar.
His presence, Weis said, is an undeniable advantage. As spring football really gets rolling, he's the cornerstone upon which a great offense can built - but it's about more than just his pure talent.
Crist's potential for success is as much about his personality as it is anything.
"A good quarterback in a new system - that knows the system, that knows your ways, that knows you, that was recruited by you," Weis explained. "Knows your wife, knows your kids, knows everything about you. When the team has something to say, they have a sounding board to go to. It's not just him as a player. He makes all the other offensive players better."
And his new teammates have responded, through an off-season conditioning program with new strength coach Scott Holsopple that was, by all reports, utterly grueling.
Relationships among teammates are complex, forged and strengthened in the trenches of countless workouts, practices and games. Any time a new player is dropped into the mix - particularly one as ballyhooed as Crist - chemistry is an immediate and justified concern.
In this, too, the senior transfer has already proven himself to be unique.
"I'll tell you, when you know a kid is special is when the day he walks in players look at him as a leader and he hasn't done anything yet," Weis explained. "That's when you know you've got something special."
So no, the success of the 2012 Kansas Jayhawks won't be determined entirely by the play of Dayne Crist. After the disaster that was 2011, there are more questions than answers where Kansas football is concerned, and an entire signing class that has yet to hit campus, laden with reinforcements expected to contribute immediately.
But, as the quarterback, Crist is the key. If the line can keep him safe and upright, and the transition to his old coaches and familiar offensive system is as seamless as it appears to be, then he can be the catalyst for change. He can be an extension of the power surge Athletics Director Sheahon Zenger believed he produced when he hired Charlie Weis.
The first week of spring football has yet to be concluded, and there's a long way to go. But that hasn't stopped Jayhawk Nation from dreaming of what could be.