It came as no surprise to anyone yesterday that Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly announced that his backup quarterback, Dayne Crist, will begin talking to schools about a potential transfer. The former blue chip prospect--who possesses an NFL body and arm but not pedigree--has won the starting nod for the last two Irish season openers. In four seasons at Notre Dame, he's completed 58% of his passes for 2,327 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions. His biggest knock as a starter is that his team only won 4 of his 10 starts. Last year, his season ended with an injury; this year he was benched by Kelly after an ineffective first half against South Florida.
If I try to get into the mind of a guy like Crist right now, I'm considering several factors. The first is the NCAA rule itself, which allows a graduated transfer to play right away, so long as the school to which the player transfers offers a graduate program the original school doesn't. This stipulation will narrow the search to some degree, but it's difficult to know how much. Crist studies management consulting, so we can probably assume he'll stick with some sort of business program. Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson is the best example of someone who has recently taken advantage of this rule.
Crist probably still hopes for an NFL career, which means he'll want to play at as high a level as possible. There are certainly some possibilities with other BCS schools. It would also make sense to seek out a coaching staff with a record of success in developing pro quarterbacks.
Lastly, Crist will want to find a school where he's confident he can win the job. Let's not forget, this was not a given at Notre Dame, where Brian Kelly stuck with sophomore Tommy Rees throughout the 2011 season, even as he struggled with turning the ball over. Schools like Boise State, Michigan State, Houston, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State all lose important quarterbacks, but seem more likely to go with a seasoned and capable backup with some long-term commitment to the program than with Crist, for whom learning the offense will be the first chore. As I see it, here are some of Crist's better opportunities:
I've been saying this since September. It just makes too much sense. Crist has worked with Gator offensive coordinator Charlie Weis when Weis was the head coach at Notre Dame. Weis utilizes a pro-style system, which favors Crist's skill set. And Florida's starting quarterback, John Brantley, has exhausted his eligibility. Brantley's backup is a talented freshman named Jeff Driskell who struggled mightily in the action he did see this year. Surely, he could use a year under Crist's tutoring. The question mark here is Crist; he hasn't said much on record this year, and what he's said in the past is pretty bland, so it's hard to tell if he would want to go back and play for Weis. And Florida did struggle this year under the new coaching staff.
It worked for the Badgers this year with Wilson; would they be willing to lease another talented veteran for a season? That probably depends on how badly they need to replace Wilson. And it looks like they could use a year to develop current freshman Joe Brennan, who, in limited action this year, completed six of 15 passes for 48 yards and an interception. Crist does not offer the same running ability that Wilson does, but he certainly can scramble for first downs or even hold his own on designed quarterback runs. His injury during the 2010 season was after busting a 29-yard run. Wisconsin's offensive balance would be to Crist's benefit.
The Cardinal is losing a quarterback you may have heard of. And let's not forget Crist is a west-coast guy, hailing from Sherman Oaks, California. I'd be tempted to add USC to this list if Barkley was a lock to leave, Cal if they did not have a junior quarterback who was returning, or UCLA if there wasn't a pending coaching change. I'd be surprised if Crist didn't consider at least one West Coast school, and Stanford seems to make the most sense. Like Notre Dame, it's a stringent academic school that also plays some pretty good football. Stanford's backup quarterback has thrown all of eight career passes. It's worth noting that Stanford plays at Notre Dame in 2012.
The rumor mill has also placed Utah and San Diego State among potential landing spots for Crist, but I would be surprised if he ended up at either of those places.