Notre Dame QB Race About to Heat Up For Irish

( – With the start training camp just around the corner for the 2007 Fighting Irish, the quarterback race which has been debated ad nauseum across all of the Notre Dame message boards this off-season is about to move to the forefront of the college football landscape. Charlie Weis’s success with quarterbacks, especially Brady Quinn, will make the quarterback race at Notre Dame one of the most publicized position battles in all of college football this summer so here is a quick update on where we left off after the spring.

Since the end of spring practice, the four man quarterback race has been cut to three with the odd man out, Zach Frazer, transferring to UConn. Weis has hoped to trim his list of potential starters to two prior to the beginning of training camp in order to give each enough snaps to decide on his starter, but the race is a little too close to call right now.

After the Blue and Gold game there were a few points that, for the most part, everyone agreed on – Evan Sharpley had the best command of the offense, Jimmy Clausen threw the nicest ball, and Demetrius Jones had the best big play ability due to his speed and athleticism. None of them, however, really stood out from the pack during the annual scrimmage and no coincidentally, all three remain viable candidates for lining up under center come September 1.

Clausen’s availability could be an issue once camp starts after the university confirmed he had a “procedure” done to his elbow back in June. What exactly the procedure was has not been revealed by anyone from Notre Dame or the Clausen camp. The statement which the university released on the matter did say they expect Clausen to be ready to participate in camp, but did not define what they meant by participate.

The extent of Clausen’s injury will most likely never be fully explained by Weis or anyone else from Notre Dame which makes it difficult to speculate what his chances might be to start the season opener.

Conventional wisdom might point to Evan Sharpley as the starter since he has been in the system the longest and has the best understanding of the offense. Sharpley would give Notre Dame a steady hand to guide the offense and is a great fit for the Irish if they intend to play more of a ball control style offense this year.

The wild card in the mix is Jones who would add another dimension to the offense with his ability to make plays with his arm and his legs. Jones showed a glimpse of his play making ability with a 31 yard scramble in the Blue-Gold game and with an inexperienced offensive line, Jones’s ability to avoid the rush could be a very valuable asset to the Irish offense.
Having a quarterback with Jones’s abilities could also open up space for Notre Dame receivers and tight end John Carlson. Opposing defenses would have to scheme around a mobile quarterback which normally involves spying the quarterback. Considering Notre Dame will be starting two new wide receivers, creating some open space for them to work could help get the offense going early on.

No matter who ends up starting against Georgia Tech, there’s no guarantee that he will finish the season as the starter. It’s entirely plausible that if Clausen isn’t healthy enough to start week one that he could still end up starting down the road. It’s also possible that Jones might not be completely ready to start, but could be eased into a starting role by season’s end. Sharpley could also start from day one and hold off both Jones and Clausen.

Regardless of how this plays out, it’s safe to assume that this year’s QB battle could be one of the most highly debated ever for the Irish. It’s been some time since Notre Dame entered a season without a clear cut starter. Even in 2002 when it wasn’t certain whether Carlyle Holiday or Matt Lovecchio would start after the spring, the race ended abruptly when Lovecchio transferred before training camp. It should be a fun summer to follow Notre Dame football, and it’s just about to start.

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