|QB Clausen learning at Notre Dame the hard way|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 27 September 2007 16:03|
Clausen was 42-0 as a starter at Oaks Christian High School in Westlake Village, Calif., throwing 49 touchdown passes his senior season. He's 0-3 as a starter for Notre Dame, has yet to throw a touchdown pass and has led the Fighting Irish (0-4) on only two TD drives so far this season.
``College is a way different thing,'' Clausen said after practice Thursday. ``It's helped me - and not only me, but the rest of the team - realize that this is a hard game.''
Clausen talked to the media for the first time since he took over as starter in his second game at college - the earliest any freshman quarterback has started at Notre Dame. Coach Charlie Weis limits media access to freshmen because he doesn't want to create ``prima donnas.''
For Clausen, though, it's been impossible to avoid the limelight.
Clausen enrolled in school in January and was the top quarterback coming out of spring practice, but he didn't start the opener because arthroscopic elbow surgery to remove a bone spur on his throwing arm slowed his progress. Clausen said he's 100 percent healthy.
The biggest adjustment to college has been the speed of the game, he said.
``You've got to make your reads a lot faster to get the ball out quicker,'' he said. ``That's one thing I'm going to grow on as my days come and the weeks go on the years go on.''
The game is slowing down, though, Clausen said.
Clausen has had a similar start as a freshman quarterback to that of his predecessor, Brady Quinn. Like Quinn in 2003, Clausen is finding it difficult to carry the Irish to victory despite flashes of what made him one of the top incoming freshmen.
Clausen, like Quinn as a freshman, is playing behind an inexperienced line and taking his lumps. He has been hurried, harried and hassled, being sacked 18 times. He's on pace to be sacked more than 50 times. He said he's ready for the physical play.
``Football is a physical sport. If I didn't want to play football and get hit I should have played golf or something like that,'' Clausen said. ``It's a physical sport and I'm going to get hit.''
And just like Quinn, Clausen is handling an offense that has struggled to establish a running game. The biggest difference between the two is the 2003 team depended on Quinn to try to win, while coach Charlie Weis is trying to depend more on the run than on Clausen.
Clausen said that is fine with him.
``Whatever the coaches want me to do I'm going to do,'' he said.
In his first three starts, Quinn was 49-of-119 passing for 498 yards with two touchdowns and five interceptions. Clausen is 35-of-62 passing for 271 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions.
Clausen is excited to be starting.
``It's been fun. It's been a different experience. We obviously haven't got the wins we wanted,'' he said.
But he has earned the respect of his teammates.
``He takes a lot of hits, and he gets back up. A bad play might happen, but he comes back and doesn't seem to be rattled by it,'' tight end John Carlson said. ``I feel like he's shown a lot of maturity and toughness.''
What has impressed Weis most is that Clausen doesn't appear to get flustered.
``He doesn't show those faraway eyes,'' Weis said.
He said he's generally satisfied with Clausen's progress, especially his ability to read coverages and pass. The biggest challenge is to learn how to run the offense rather than just relay the play sent in from the sideline.
Clausen will be given more and more chances to read opposing defenses and change plays as he develops.
``I'd like to do a whole lot more of it,'' Weis said. ``But you have to do what they can handle.''
Although Weis has been pleased with Clausen's play, there have been coaching moments. After Clausen was replaced by Evan Sharpley in the fourth quarter against Michigan State, Weis had an animated talk with his young quarterback.
``It's easy to be a quarterback when things are going well,'' Weis said. ``You're the one that everyone wants to pat on the back and give you all the credit. But when things are not going well, it's a lot tougher test.
``He's far from being the problem here. We have a whole litany of things that are involved in being the problem. But he'll continue to develop the way he's been developing, he'll continue to get better, and positive things are ahead for him.''