This is a down year for quarterbacks nationally. It's an especially down year for true "drop back" quarterbacks. But one guy really stands out in my mind. That player is Dayne Crist. Dayne is a productive high school quarterback whose best days are likely ahead of him. Size and arm strength. Whether you are a scout of twenty years or a football novice you can easily tell that Crist possesses both of these traits. He is a well built young man who already looks like a college junior. You won't find many players with his arm strength. His arm is elite.
Crist throws a very nice deep ball. Right now, as a high school junior, he can make what I feel are the two toughest throws in football with ease. He throws the deep out with a ton of velocity, and he throws the deep seam with authority. More importantly, he does it within his normal throwing motion. This means simply that he doesn't have to put any extra effort into these throws. He throws each route with very little effort, releases it smooth, and gets the ball out there with tremendous zip. This isn't something you can coach, either a kid has that kind of arm or he doesn't.
Crist isn't just a big-armed kid. Unlike Ryan Mallet from last year, Dayne is a very athletic kid as well. He won't be confused with Demetrius Jones, but he has very good quickness, speed, and has shown the ability to make plays with his running ability as well. He reminds me of Brady Quinn in this area. I felt Brady was a much underrated athlete. Although he has quite a bit of technique work to do, the natural athletic abilities are there for him.
I really like Crist's upper body throwing motion. He has a smooth delivery for such a strong-armed kid. He is effortless throwing the football. Whether it's throwing a deep post, quick slant, or a deep out his arm speed stays relatively constant. Dayne also throws a very catchable ball. Often, what you'll see with big-armed guys like Michael Vick and Ryan Mallet, is they have trouble with the short to intermediate routes. Part of the reason Michael Vick has so many drops is because he throws so hard on everything. Dayne has the ability to throw with great velocity on all his passes, but knows when to ease up a bit or when to lead his wide out.
One thing I noticed a bit in the clips from the LA Combine was his tendency to only have one hand on the football as he waits on receivers to get open. This will need to be fixed, and will be fixed by the coaches at Notre Dame.
Part of my excitement regarding the Scout.com four-star player is the fact he is far from a finished product. He isn't a real consistent quarterback right now, despite his production. There are several reasons for this. The encouraging aspect of this is the fact all are in areas that can be corrected. The first thing I see with his mechanics is inconsistency with his release point. At times his balls will be high or sail. Other times he really drives the ball too low. This actually has a lot to do with footwork, which is Dayne's second big issue. His footwork is inconsistent as well.
At times he stands straight up and locks his legs a bit. Other times he won't really plant his feet as he gets to his drop and makes the throw. His arm is so strong that he is still able to get tremendous velocity on the ball, but this explains his inaccuracy. At times Crist can also be slow with in his drops, and a bit too deliberate in the pocket. He needs to be smoother as well as have a bit more quickness in his drop. As with Jimmy Clausen, I'd like to see him get deeper with his initial one or two steps from under center. I've often said that if a players inaccuracy comes from his throwing motion he's in trouble, but if it's because of his footwork that can absolutely be fixed. Neither is a guarantee or a lock, but that is what I've usually found in working with quarterbacks.
Unless you are fortunate enough to land a kid like Jimmy Clausen, which happens about every ten or twenty years, Dayne Crist is the prototype high school recruit for the Irish. He's a big, strong-armed young man with very solid athletic ability. He's very raw, but with Charlie Weis and Ron Powlus in charge you have to feel good about the coaching he is going to receive. Crist is going to have the opportunity to come in, sit behind whoever wins the starting job, and just learn. Learn the offense, improve his mechanics, groom behind a great young quarterback, and learn the position from one of the nation's elite quarterback coaches. But for some reason, I don't think he'll settle for that and will be pushing for a starting spot when given the chance. This is a tremendous pickup for the Fighting Irish.
In the Film Room: Dayne Crist
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