Charlie Weis gave Notre Dame fans a little dose of good news/bad news on Thursday when he told the media that quarterback Jimmy Clausen looked like a go for Saturday while tailback Armando Allen was going to be a game time decision.
Clausen, nursing a case of turf toe, was held out of practice on Tuesday and was eased back into action Wednesday before taking part in all of Thursday. Weis said that the plan went according to action and that the star quarterback looked sharp.
Having Clausen on Saturday is a major shot in the arm for an offense that will already be playing without star wide receiver Michael Floyd for the rest of the season. Clausen heads into the weekend ranked second in the country in passing efficiency behind Arkansas’s Ryan Mallet is looks to be well on his way to putting his name into serious Heisman consideration.
Not all news was good on Thursday. Starting tailback Armando Allen is going to be a game time decisions as he nurses an ankle injury. Like Clausen he was held out of Tuesday’s practice with the plan being to ease him back into action Wednesday and Thursday, but unlike Clausen he wasn’t able to do it. Weis didn’t rule Allen out, but said that Jonas Gray and Robert Hughes were receiving the bulk of the carries in practice in Allen’s absence.
Having to play without Allen this weekend would be a major blow to the Irish offense. In light of Michael Floyd’s injury, Allen’s workload figured to increase both on the ground and in the air this weekend. Notre Dame is going to have to replace the playmaking ability of Floyd somehow and Allen was one of the players whose role figured to increased.
Both Robert Hughes and Jonas Gray are capable replacements, but neither is the complete back that Allen is. Hughes doesn’t have the second gear that Allen possesses and has been unable to recapture some of the magic that he had at the end of his freshman season in 2007. Gray, meanwhile, has shown to be a very talented runner, but has also shown to be an very inconsistent blocker. With Clausen banged up this week pass protection will take on even more importance making Gray’s issues in pass protection a major cause for concern. Neither back has shown the ability to be as big of a weapon in the passing game as Allen to this point.
Hughes has also been filling in at fullback the last couple weeks in place of injured starter James Aldridge. If Hughes were to get the bulk of the carries at tailback, former walkon Bobby Burger could see more time at fullback this weekend.
While Weis didn’t mention him by name, freshman running back Theo Riddick could also see his workload increase. Riddick’s been worked in the last few games, but hasn’t seen any consistent work.