Dayne Crist is healthy again and eyeing the Notre Dame QB job.

Dayne Crist is healthy again and eyeing the Notre Dame QB job. (Nuccio DiNuzzo/Tribune)

After a teammate acquired the Season 1 DVD set, Dayne Crist was excited to watch the gory AMC sci-fi series "The Walking Dead." One quick clarification: It is not a Dayne Crist biopic.

You might not know it, given how some view the Notre Dame quarterback battle. Last spring, Crist was all his team had, bearing the considerable centrifugal force of fans' hopes. Then he ruptured his left patellar tendon in October. Then the Irish won four games without him.

Now, somewhere above the No. 10 on his jersey, he might as well affix a "Hi, My Name Is Dayne" tag. Notre Dame's former starting quarterback is almost 100 percent healthy and easily could be its future starting quarterback, and he doesn't care if no one realizes that.

"I can't let that outside stuff affect me," Crist said Friday after a morning practice. "I know it happens and I know there's a negativity — you're kind of thrown under the bus any time you're injured, and you're kind of forgotten about. But I just want to show what I can do. I have all the confidence in the world in my ability."

It's not entirely accurate to suggest Crist doesn't care, even if his 2010 numbers virtually matched those of Tommy Rees, his competition. He just won't admit he cares, beyond conceding doubts about his return from consecutive season-ending knee injuries "will fire you up a little bit."

His teammates, who see no ill effects as Crist splits reps with Rees early in spring practice, say it for him.

"You hear bits and pieces from different people, and it's all motivation," center Braxston Cave said.

Said safety Harrison Smith: "He always has had a competitive fire. It may not be as visible to some fans, I don't know. Some of the fans writing him off, that'll definitely fire a guy up. Especially a guy like Dayne."

Crist completed 59.2 percent of his attempts last season to Rees' 61 percent. Crist threw 15 touchdown passes in nine starts, and Rees had 12 in the last five games. But Rees — who had a class conflict Friday and wasn't available to talk — threw seven interceptions in the last five games. Crist threw less than one per start.

The perceived performance chasm just isn't there. Now Crist says he is 100 percent medically cleared. However people want to label the quarterback duel, he says he intends to "compete regardless, (to) let what I can do speak for itself."

His game of catch-up was over before it started. So after Crist declared himself all clear Friday, he was asked if that included, say, taking a shot from freshman pass-rushing phenom Aaron Lynch.

"I'd stiff-arm him," Crist deadpanned, declining to back off even a bit.

bchamilton@tribune.com

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