Going into their Saturday matchup with interstate rival Purdue, the Fighting Irish are banged up to say the least. On the most severe end of the spectrum, star-receiver Michael Floyd (2nd in the nation in receiving yards) had surgery to repair a broken collarbone that will keep him out a minimum of two months, giving him an outside shot to return for a possible bowl bid, should the rest of Notre Dame's season not self destruct.
Less severe, but troubling nonetheless, Notre Dame's starting quarterback and running back will not be at full strength against the Boilermakers. Armando Allen Jr. — the team's leading rusher — is hobbled with a sprained right ankle and Jimmy Clausen — whose passer efficiency rating of 188.55 is 2nd in the nation — has been diagnosed with turf toe.
Early rumors had Clausen possibly breaking his foot (since proven untrue), but it has been reported and confirmed that the junior quarterback has been strutting around campus with a medical boot on his foot. He has also been sitting out the early practices this week, leaving sophomore quarterback Dayne Crist to run the first team offense. And this is where things get interesting.
Everyone knows Clausen was a massively heralded recruit with a strong family pedigree when he came to South Bend. He never lost a game that he started in his high school career (42-0), won the Hall Trophy for the nation's top high school football player, was named Offensive Player of the Year by USA Today… oh, and his two brothers (Casey and Rick) both played at Tennessee. Clausen was a historic recruit for the Irish and he is The One who has been tapped to lead the Irish back to glory.
But when commenting on Clausen's availability and the prospects of Crist seeing the field, Weis praised his back-up signal-caller with his confidence also stating that he "(I) would expect them both to play."
Dayne Crist offers the Irish an interesting option at the quarterback position. He's built ideally for the role, coming in at 6'4", 235 on the tale of the tape. And his 4.7 40 time may not be Vick-like (too soon?) but it does show that he possesses a mobility that is the one positive attribute Clausen lacks. Add to this the scouting reports that are all in agreement on the general "cannon for an arm" assessment along with the accuracy displayed by his low interception to touchdown ratios in high school. and the Irish have a very interesting if unknown quantity in Crist.
As Dayne didn't play at all his freshman year, the only available sampling for judgment as to his ability at the collegiate level are his miniscule statistical accumulations from this season. The youngster is 3-for-4 passing with 16 yards and an interception on a Hail Mary that he obviously can't be blamed for. The 25th top ranked recruit in 2008 has the high school accolades, and now the kid who set his sights on taking Clausen's job (he essentially stated as much respectfully and with class) will get his chance to show what he can do. And after an already frustrating season for Notre Dame fans, some intrigue is never a bad thing, especially as the pipe-dream of a BCS berth that Irish fan's indulge in annually, slips further away with each passing week.
Clausen is unlikely to be in any danger of losing his starting role given the statistics he's displayed this season. But at the very least, Saturday may be an intriguing glimpse into the post-Clausen future for the Irish, giving further Powlus-like delusions of national championships and Heisman Trophies to an ND Nation that associates broken expectations and disappointment as closely with the coming of fall as the changing of the leaves and Thanksgiving dinner.