NOTRE DAME, IN (UHND.com) – Charlie Weis will announce his starting quarterback for this weekend’s Penn State game at his weekly Tuesday press conference later today, but it seems somewhat obvious that his choice should be freshman Jimmy Clausen. Clausen got his feet wet Saturday against Georgia Tech completing 4 of 6 attempts, but it was his feel for the position that was evident in his mop up duty.
While Demetrius Jones won the quarterback derby, his tenure as the starting quarterback looks as though it may be very short lived. Jones was not exactly placed in a position to succeed with the gameplan Weis delivered, but based on Weis’s reluctance to call passing plays by Jones should give us all an indication of his abilities as a passer right now.
Weis tried to use Jones’s athletic abilities in his gameplan for Georgia Tech, but it became apparent early that Notre Dame does not have the personnel to pull off that sort of offensive system.
Evan Sharpley came in and moved the offense with some success, but he held onto the ball entirely too long and the Georgia Tech defense teed off on him. When he did not face any pressure he looked okay, but whenever Tech sent the blitz, he would get flustered. Sharpley also missed a WIDE open David Grimes on a gimme touchdown in the 3rd quarter when the Irish were down 19-0.
The one quarterback who came in and at least looked the part was Jimmy Clausen. Last year’s uber recruit came into the game I a mop up role, but he looked the best of the three Irish quarterbacks in terms of accuracy and decision making. While Clausen missed DJ Hord running down the middle of the field on one throw, his other throws were right on the money.
Clausen also appeared to just have the best feel for the position. Sharpley’s pocket presence left a lot to be desired and neither he or Jones protected the ball well. Jones had his two first half fumbles while Sharpley lost one on the fourth quarter and nearly lost another in the third during his dropback.
Also working in Clausen’s favor right now is that he is now full go in practice and can take more snaps. According to Weis on Inside Notre Dame Football this week, Clausen was not full go until September 1 which really prevented him from being the mix for being the starter against Tech. Clausen was unable to take enough snaps in practice leading up to last weekend’s game in order for Weis to develop a gameplan around him. That won’t be the case this week.
With the performance of the offensive line and the abilities of the wide receivers, Clausen seems like the obvious choice because of his accuracy, quick release, and decision making abilities. Until the offensive line solidifies itself, having a quarterback who can make quick decisions and get the ball out of his hands quickly can be just as, if not more effective as having a mobile quarterback under center.
Notre Dame’s starting wide receivers are also more quick than they are fast making them more dangerous in the short passing game which again would point towards inserting Clausen as the starter. George West and David Grimes both can be very dangerous receivers if they can get the ball in their hands in the open field.
The only reason not to start Clausen right now is the same reason you don’t want to start any freshman quarterbacks – he will take his fair share of lumps along the way. A lot of times a coach will want to keep a freshman off the field at the quarterback position because their psyche can take a big hit if they struggle. A quarterback like Clausen, though, who has been under the limelight since his junior year of high school should be able to handle the situation just fine.
There are very few reasons not to start Clausen this weekend and many reasons to start him. Doing so means that the offense will make its fair share of mistakes with a rookie signal caller, but doing so also gives Notre Dame the best chance to win now and not just in the future.