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REGGIE HAYES: As the son of a Notre Dame great, new Saint Francis quarterback Matt Crable understands pressure

University of Saint Francis quarterback Matt Crable, right, laughs with receiver Will Chrisman on the sideline of the spring game Saturday at Bishop D'Arcy Stadium. (Photo by Reggie Hayes of news-sentinel.com)

Matt Crable looks the part. Let’s start there.

Crable stands 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, walks with a confident gait and a sports a smile built for toothpaste commercials. You look at the kid and you see a quarterback.

The question becomes whether his play will be as good as his looks. Those who have seen him regularly in practice – his new coaches at the University of Saint Francis, his new teammates – insist those quarterback looks do not deceive. They like what Crable has shown in his short time with the Cougars since transferring from Grand Valley State.

The rest of us caught a glimpse on Saturday when Crable made his sort-of Saint Francis debut during the spring Black and Blue game. I say “sort of” because this was a controlled scrimmage. Nothing was truly on the line. That won’t come until next fall when the two-time NAIA champion Cougars open the 2018 season.

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So if Crable looks the part, and those who have spent time with him feel confident he can play the part, then we can get to the next step:

Can he step into the enormous shoes of Nick Ferrer and keep the Saint Francis offense humming?

“Crable made some plays today,” Saint Francis coach Kevin Donley said. “When it wasn’t there, he did it with his feet. I think he’s going to be a good one.”

Taking over for Ferrer, presuming Crable wins the job over returnees Clay Senerius and Danny Naylor and incoming freshman Heath Simmons, brings some incredible pressure.

Not only did Ferrer lead the Cougars to back-to-back national titles, he set school records in a number of categories, including passing offense, total offense and touchdown passes. Ferrer set the new standards.

This is some pressure we’re talking about here. Crable seems plenty familiar with the concept.

Crable is the son of former University of Notre Dame linebacker Bob Crable, a two-time All-American who played seven seasons in the NFL. In 2017, Bob Crable was named to the National Football Foundation’s College Football Hall of Fame.

“Having a father who is who he is, I’ve had to deal with (pressure) some,” Matt Crable said. “It’s not a problem for me. I’m excited for the challenge.”

Bob and Lisa Crable attended the spring game Saturday to watch their son. Afterward, Bob seconded Matt’s notion that he’s dealt with having a little extra on his shoulders for a while.

“I put pressure on him in football, baseball and basketball,” Bob Crable said. “I coached him and I don’t think that was ever the best experience for him, me being involved. As he got in high school, I was able to step back and just watch.”

Bob Crable backed off as much as he could, that is, acknowledging the urge to instruct his son hasn’t waned.

“He took off in the game (Saturday) and I said, ‘Wait a second. Why are you trying to put a move on somebody? Get out of bounds or get upfield,’ ” Bob Crable said.

Matt Crable played for the vaunted Cincinnati Moeller High School, one of the top traditional high school powers in the country. So that brought pressure, too. After throwing for 2,673 yards and 20 touchdowns as a senior, Matt Crable committed to Grand Valley State.

That experience didn’t go like he envisioned.

“We thought he had a good fit at Grand Valley but sometimes things work out and something they don’t,” Bob Crable said. “There was a time last year he thought he was going to be playing but the other kid came back late in the week. He called and said, ‘Dad, I’ve got to find a place to play. This is killing me.’ ”

The Crable family reached out to Saint Francis and found a receptive coaching staff. Saint Francis offensive co-offensive coordinator Patrick Donley had recruited Crable when he was at Moeller, although Crable never took a visit to Saint Francis.

“I was looking for a school and found Saint Francis and saw they had a senior quarterback graduating,” Matt Crable said. “My brother-in-law was the one, actually, who contacted coach Donley and he got back to him the next day saying they were very interested. It couldn’t be a better fit.”

Crable completed 4-of-11 passes for 39 yards and a touchdown and rushed four times for 38 yards and a touchdown in the spring game.

It was a glimpse of what he could do.

“There’s always a (learning) curve but the coaches have been really helpful,” Crable said. “Everyone has been really helpful in learning the offense. It’s tough to get the handle of it, but with four more months to kickoff, I’m going to get the hang of it.”

Saint Francis senior safety Willy Cole reiterated what coaches and players have been saying in casual conversation.

“He’s a great quarterback and we’re going to need him and the energy he brings,” Cole said. “There were a couple long runs he had against us. He has some room to grow, but right now we like what we see in him.”

Crable looks the part. We’ll see if first impressions tell the story when next fall arrives.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at rhayes@news-sentinel.com.

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