Crist may be KU's savior

Saturday, Jayhawk Nation got its first look at senior transfer Dayne Crist in action under center, and the former five-star prospect didn't disappoint. Phog.net's Jim Williamson chimes in with his take on what Crist means to the success of the coming season

Look, I don't know what's going to happen when Dayne Crist has to step into the pocket against Texas or Oklahoma or Texas Christian. I do know, however, that when he did it for the Blue team against his own teammates, it gave me hope for this year's Kansas football team.

It wasn't what happened after. It was more how it happened. Hell, in some ways, it was that it happened at all.

On second-and-long in the White team's red zone, first possession of the game, Crist came under pressure from the outside. He took one small step up into the pocket to buy himself – and a receiver – an extra nanosecond and threw. He didn't panic, he didn't rush the pass. Even better, he didn't scream and throw himself to the ground in the fetal position or throw an interception. He stepped up and threw the football.

The pass was bobbled by his intended receiver and fell harmlessly to the Memorial Stadium turf, but that's not the point. The point is, it was the first sign that the Notre Dame transfer isn't your father's KU quarterback.

Like a hiccup-quick point guard with handles or a pitcher who can paint the corners with runners on, a quarterback with a strong arm who doesn't soil himself when he hears footsteps can make a good team great.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. At this point, the hope is Dayne Crist can make a 2-10 team competitive – and he just might.

It's been a while since Kansas had a quarterback with any presence. Todd Reesing comes to mind, but his was a different presence. Reesing made you feel like, if you gave him time, he'd figure the opponent's defense out. Crist makes you feel like he figured it out during pregame warmups.

And he might have. After all, Crist worked with new Kansas coach Charlie Weis at Notre Dame. He's as familiar with Weis' offense as Weis is. Crist has made his reads before he even goes under center. He points; he directs traffic. When a quarterback is this knowledgeable and this experienced, it makes everyone around him better.

It's also not out of the realm of possibility that the student may almost know the offense better than the master.

"One time today, we had a play called that wasn't really a good play," Weis confessed. "So even though I didn't want (Crist) to pull up and throw the ball out to the wide receiver, I wanted him to hand it off, he pulled up anyway and threw it out there. Even though, normally, it would get me mad, he said, 'Look, we had a bad play called, so I got (KU out of it).'

"He'll have that flexibility to do that. Now, you don't do that with an inexperienced quarterback, but his answer made perfect sense. I'm saying, 'Just hand the ball off,' he said, 'No, we wouldn't have had a play.'"

Let's be honest here: Crist is not going to be the difference between 2-10 and 10-2. No one thinks that. He will, however, be the difference between getting behind 7-0 and saying, "Crap, here we go again," and, "Okay, let's get 'em back."

Combine this with the countless stories about Crist being the first player in the weight room in the morning and the last one out at night, and one understands that he's a key part of Weis' biggest challenge: changing everything about the culture of the football program at Kansas. Weis knows that the quarterback position – on and off the field – is one less thing he has to worry about.

And somewhere along the way, Weis trusts that a bunch of Jayhawks who know nothing but losing will learn how to look, act, compete and – hopefully – win like a real live Big 12 football team.


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