Irish QB battle fierce, but rivals friendly

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Dayne Crist and Tommy Rees will be given two different messages next week by Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly.

One will hear he is Notre Dame’s starting quarterback. The other will hear he is not.

Neither is sure who will receive which message, but the two quarterbacks said they are certain the result won’t affect their personal relationship. Although they often joke they should create a public hatred for each other, both said they feel their friendship is much stronger than whatever outcome their quarterback battle will come to.

“I think a lot of guys want to make more out of it than it is,” said Crist, a senior, during Notre Dame’s media day on Tuesday. “I’ve said this multiple times, but I really think that [Rees] is like a little brother to me, and he sees me as an older brother. We spend so much time together. We’ve developed a chemistry and built a relationship that will last beyond football.

“But we know it’s about making the team better and pushing each other. By making ourselves better, we’re getting the team better. We’re going to continue to do that.”

While the competition on the practice field is fierce, it hasn’t impacted how they act together off the field. The two do discuss football when alone, but it has nothing to do with their competition -- outside of their desire to create some fake public drama.

“We’ve joked around about it,” Rees, a sophomore, said. “We’ll pretend with media we’re fighting or pretending we hate each other, but it couldn’t be farther from the truth.

“We both understand it’s out of our control. We can only do what we can take care of. We just talk football. We don’t know what’s going with the situation. We talk X's and O's and where we can improve and make this team better. It’s not something we talk about on a more serious note.”

Both players are prepared to receive the rejection message and said they know they’ll handle it accordingly.

“If Dayne earns the job, I’ll be 100 percent behind him as a supportive person,” Rees said. “It’s not something like we’ll try to stab each other in the back or anything like that. I think we have such a good relations that we’ll be supportive whatever way it goes.”

Kelly said Tuesday he was no closer to making a decision, but still hoped to have it made by his target date of Aug. 22.

“It’s going to be the slightest of margins when we make this decision,” Kelly said. “I can tell you right now I’m confident that both of those guys if named the starter, either one of them will lead our team in the merit that we need them to be led. It’s that close. It’s a good situation to have as a head coach. Maybe it’s not so good for the two guys in that battle.”