Open Practice Offers Little Clues into QB Race

( – Saturday’s open practice left observers with more questions than answers regarding Notre Dame’s highly publicized quarterback race. Is Jimmy Clausen healthy? Can Demetrius Jones be consistent enough to lead the offense? Does Evan Sharpley have the field presence to be the starter come September 1? All of these questions remain unanswered a week into practice – all least in the eyes of the media.

Charlie Weis does every for a reason so the chances of gaining any sort of insights into the quarterback competition were slim to begin with. In fact, its very likely that everything that was shown on Saturday was done purposefully to raise some doubt and leave Georgia Tech guessing.

Jimmy Clausen was the only quarterback who didn’t attempt any downfield passes. Rather, the freshman phenom threw only short passes in Saturday’s dog and pony show while every other signal caller threw down field at least once.

Is Clausen’s arm not 100% or does Weis simply want everyone to think it’s not 100%? When asked about why Clausen didn’t sling it downfield like his fellow qbs, Weis quipped, “Can he throw the ball deep? I think we’ll have to wait until September 1 to find that out.”

Clausen wasn’t the only quarterback who left people with questions though. Sophomore Demetrius Jones showed flashes of the athleticism that he is known for, but he also showed flashes of the inaccuracy that he is also dubiously known for.

Jones, however, did show a great command of the offense and the field presence of a starting quarterback. Accuracy is something that can be worked on with addition reps, but having the confidence and command of the offense is something that is not so easily taught.

The third horse in this race, Evan Sharpley, threw the ball with the best accuracy and velocity Saturday, but didn’t move the offense as well as Jones who despite his accuracy issues showed that ability better than either Clausen or Sharpley.

All of these observations, however, are based on what Weis and the staff wanted people to see. It behooves Weis to continue to leave a cloud of uncertainty hovering over the quarterback situation for as long as he can so it’s very likely that Saturday’s practice was just another move in the chess game that is the pre-season in college football .

While Saturday’s practice may have been planned out to show only what Weis wanted, that is not to say that it was a wasted practice or a waste of time. As Weis explained after the practice, “We’ve had different quarterbacks doing different things on different days.” Somehow I doubt that it was just a coincidence that Clausen was not tabbed to work on his downfield passing Saturday morning.

So what have we learned after a week of practice? In the word of Weis, “They’ve been OK. They haven’t been great, they haven’t been terrible, they’ve been OK.” Again, it’s not surprising that Weis is being noncommittal in the media at this point.

The coming week of practice should provide a few more clues as the Irish move from the installation phase of camp and into the game planning phase.

“We still have Saturday night installation, Sunday installation, and Monday morning installation. For that matter we also have installation on Monday afternoon,” said Weis before adding, “ It’s going to have to be another three days before we’ve gotten enough in where now we can start tuning it up and deciding what we’re gonna try to run.”

So for now it’s just a guessing game for those outside the coaching staff to discern what was actually learned from Saturday’s open practice. Is Jones in the lead right now? Is Clausen healthy?

No one really knows. No one except Weis and his staff.

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