SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Notre Dame has picked senior Dayne Crist as the starting quarterback for the season.

Irish coach Brian Kelly announced the decision on Tuesday and said it was a difficult choice between Crist and Tommy Rees, “but one I was excited to make.” He said he expects Crist to start all 13 games.

“Both of those young men had a great battle for that starting position but Dayne will be our starter,” Kelly said. “He was chosen because of mental toughness he showed in overcoming his injuries and because he’s matured so much as both a player and a leader.”

Crist didn’t play as a freshman in 2008 and then tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during the 2009 season as a backup. He made it back through arduous rehab, was able to practice in Kelly’s first spring a year ago and emerged – as expected – as the No. 1 quarterback.

Then, last Oct. 30 against Tulsa, Crist suffered a ruptured patellar tendon in his left knee, creating a here-we-go-again scenario for a quarterback who had made great strides in Kelly’s new spread offense but was still trying to learn its intricacies and avoid mistakes.

The 6-foot-4, 235-pound Crist has a stronger arm, but the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Rees has a nice touch and a quick release. The two quickly emerged as the favorites over Andrew Hendrix and freshman Everett Golson.

Crist started nine games last year before he was hurt. Rees, then a freshman, led the Irish on a four-game winning streak to close the season, including a Sun Bowl victory over Miami that gave the Irish an 8-5 record.

Crist completed 59 percent of his passes with 15 TD passes and seven interceptions a year ago. He hit 174 of 294 attempts for 2,033 yards. Rees was 100 of 164 (61 percent) for 1,106 yards with 12 TD throws and eight passes intercepted.

Kelly said last week that a statistical breakdown between the two was so close it made the decision even harder to make. But he said Crist has become “a much better football player, a much better quarterback.”

“He’s the kind of guy I want to coach. He’s tougher mentally, handles himself in a leadership position the way I want our quarterbacks to,” Kelly said.

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