And They’re Off, Notre Dame’s ’07 Quarterback Derby Begins

Notre Dame, IN ( – Wednesday not only marked the beginning of spring football for the 2007 Fighting Irish, but also marked the beginning of one of the most highly anticipated quarterback races in recent Notre Dame history with four former high school stars vying to take over the position that Brady Quinn held for the past four seasons.

As Quinn performs for another round of NFL scouts, coaches, and executives on Thursday, his successor, whoever that may end up being, will just be at the beginning of a long journey of trying to replace the most prolific passer in Notre Dame history.

Evan Sharpley, Zach Frazer, Demetrius Jones, and Jimmy Clausen all began the first practice of the spring with one goal in mind – being the guy lining up under center on September 1st when Georgia Tech rolls into town for the season opener.

All four were highly touted high school quarterbacks, but the foursome has combined to throw a total of zero touchdown passes on the college level. Sharpley, a junior in 2007, has the most experience after backing up Quinn in 2006, but as Weis noted, “Even Evan, he was just listening,” in reference to how much direct coaching he’s gotten in with Sharpley as Quinn’s backup in 2006.

The other three quarterbacks also have had little to no direct coaching from Weis thus far as well with both Frazer and Jones spending their time on the scout teams last and with Clausen just enrolling in January.

Despite the lack of coaching the four may have reference from Weis thus far in their careers, they should get ready for a heavy dose of his Jersey tough love this spring, “I’m going to be heavily almost exclusively involved with the quarterback position. That’s why I hired Corwin.”

Coaching four quarterbacks presents a unique challenge for a coach, but it isn’t an entirely new experience for Weis though. “I’ve had four quarterbacks before. As a matter of fact, one year Tommy Brady was the fourth his rookie year. He was the fourth quarterback,” Weis said in reference to the challenge of coaching four quarterback. He would go on to add “It’s the difference between giving them all a shot at being the first quarterback. That’s the big difference.”

All four signal callers will be given equal opportunity to earn the starting job this spring, but by the end of spring, Weis would like turn this four way race into a two man competition. “I’m hoping to come out of the spring ball where this foursome becomes a twosome.”

Despite his desire to cut this four horse race in half by the end of spring, Notre Dame’s head man doesn’t envision any of the four being able to establish themselves as the starter by the time spring ball ends with the Blue-Gold game. Weis would say, “In only 15 practices, I doubt that it will be that clear-cut where one guy pulls that far away,” before reiterating his hope that he has two quarterbacks battling for the starting spot by fall camp.

Even if one quarterback were to establish themselves as the starter this spring, its highly unlikely that Weis would announce it until much closer to the September 1st season opener in order to make Georgia Tech prepare differently. In fact, its likely we’ll be feed a lot of vague information throughout the spring as Weis will likely play this one close to the vest, as he should.

One thing is for sure, this spring will test Weis’s reputation as a quarterback guru after the high expectations Quinn set for his successor these past two seasons. Unlike with Quinn, however, Weis will not have the luxury of working with a quarterback with two years experience as a starting quarterback on the college level.

This race will be one of the most closely followed position battles in all of college football this season and the importance of finding the right guy to line up under center September 1st is certainly not lost on Weis. “One of the biggest jobs I have in addition to working with the offensive staff to establish an identity, based off of our personnel, is to make sure we’ve got a quarterback ready to play on September 1, and we will have one ready to go.

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