Notre Dame QB Dayne Crist

The Associated Press

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame quarterback Dayne Crist, his season ended for the second year in a row by an injury, is itching to get back on the field. It won't be in time for the Sun Bowl against Miami on Dec. 31.

Crist said Saturday that his rehabilitation from surgery on a ruptured patella tendon in his left knee sustained during a 28-27 loss to Tulsa is going well and he may even be able to take part in spring practice. "I was able to get on the bicycle [Friday],'' Crist said. "I am very pleased with the progress. It would not be an outrageous claim to say that I will be practicing this spring but it is still a week-to-week thing.''

Irish head coach Brian Kelly had pretty much said the same thing on Friday, except that a minor infection had slowed progress by about a week. At the same time, Kelly did not say that Crist would automatically be named the quarterback for next fall. Instead, he was certain that the competition would make the eventual starter better.

While idle, Crist has been doing a lot of watching and reading. The watching has been done from the sidelines as his competitor for the position next season, current freshman Tommy Rees, gets a chance to do his thing. "I'm very proud of what he has accomplished,'' Crist said. "He and I talk all the time and hang out together both on and off the field, and it was great to see him get the wins that this team needed.''

At the same time, Crist would much rather be on the field than toting the clipboard. "I have to be mature about it,'' he said. "You have to turn it into a teaching opportunity or something you can benefit from. Otherwise it is a waste of time.

"Anything we are doing, anything he is doing such as going through progressions, reading coverages and everything, I try to go through it as if I was doing it myself. I am hoping it all will become something useful when I am able to come back to do it for real again.''

A year ago, when he was the backup to Jimmy Clausen, Crist's season ended with a knee injury. But he made a quicker than expected recovery and was ready for spring ball. "It is just unfortunate that you get hurt because you want to get out there and keep that ball rolling but you just have to pick up where you left off and get back out there and start firing again,'' Crist said.

In nine games this season as he learned Kelly's spread offense, Crist completed 59 percent of his passes with 15 TDs and seven interceptions.

"I am confident in my ability, confident in the doctors and in the rehab process, and I am confident that I'm going to come out firing when I come back and they give me clearance on everything,'' Crist said. "I just want to get on the field with my guys.''