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August 18, 2008

Notre Dame's Crist holds self to high standard

For freshman quarterback Dayne Crist, picking up things quickly and placing high expectations on himself have always been a part of his makeup.

That prompted Irish coach Charlie Weis to sit Crist down recently for a brief conversation.

Crist has had a difficult time living up to the standard he has set for himself.

"I had to call him in to tell him to relax," Weis said. "We had that 'you're a freshman' conversation."

Crist was watching his teammates Jimmy Clausen and Evan Sharpley and couldn't figure out why he couldn't do what they were doing.

"All of a sudden you're the guy with the ball in your hands, and you see these other guys with more experience in the system," Weis said. "They make it look so much easier than you do. You get frustrated because you know you have a ton of ability and you know you're smart, and it looks so easy for them. Why isn't it easy (for me)? Because it's not."

Still, Weis believes Crist has gotten past the "information overload" stage that befalls almost all young quarterbacks at the start of training camp.

"I think that happened a few days ago," said Weis of Crist's step up. "Actually, he's at the stage now where he's starting to push past that."

Don't expect, however, for the talented Crist to go whizzing past Sharpley into the No. 2 spot on the depth chart.

"At this stage right now, there is a wide separation between Evan and Dayne," Weis said. "Evan is closer to Jimmy than he is to Dayne."

MONTANA MAKES FOUR The fourth quarterback in the equation is freshman Nate Montana, the son of Irish great Joe Montana.

So far, so good.

"I think he could come in and finish a game for us if he needed to, which he might just do," Weis said.

SACK CONTROL The Irish allowed 58 sacks a year ago. There were several reasons: a poor offensive line, a young quarterback who didn't understand the pass protections, and large deficits, which put the Irish in must-pass situations.

"Could we have had less sacks than we had? Absolutely," Weis said. "There are a lot of things you could do if you wanted to throw in the towel. But I have a tough time with that."

Clausen said earlier in the week that he really had a very poor understanding of Notre Dame's various pass protections last year, which prompted him to run into some sacks.

"There were times that there were things that he didn't understand," Weis said. "But there are so many different factors that lead to a total. Some of them are physical, some are mental on his part, and some are mental on other people's part. Then some of them are the play calls.

"(Clausen) might have known what to do. But let's say a tight end doesn't sight adjust, or 'hot,' depending upon whether it's a six-man protection or a seven-man protection," Weis said. "He's looking to throw it to him and the guy doesn't see it, and (the quarterback) ends up getting hit.

"Now people will say, 'Why didn't he throw the ball away?' Sometimes he should have thrown the ball away. But then there are other times when it's a fire drill and they're in his face. You don't know whether you can even throw an incomplete pass. That's a bad idea to throw the ball away then. Sometimes taking a sack is the right thing to do.

"So it's the cumulative effect of all those things added together. (Clausen) was certainly part of the problem, but he wasn't the only problem."

LET HIM GO Linebacker Brian Smith admitted that there were times as a freshman last season that he needed coaches and teammates to calm him down a bit before games. Will Weis continue to try to get Smith under control prior to games?

"I'd rather not keep him under control," Weis said. "I'd rather turn him loose. He has a chance of being something pretty special."

WEIGHTING GAME Weis remained jokingly skeptical about Duval Kamara's rapid weight loss, which allowed him to switch from No. 60 to his usual No. 18. One day Kumara weighed 223 pounds four pounds over his prescribed weight. The next day, Kamara was down to 217.

"He probably took a diuretic or something like that," Weis said. "I think he was sending the trainers out for Ex-Lax. All I know is he came in the next day and he was 217."

Weis likes the impact Kamara's shift back to his original number has had on the sophomore wide receiver.

"It's amazing, since he changed numbers, he's been catching the ball much better," Weis said. "Maybe he realized he's a wide receiver and not an offensive lineman."

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