SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - Notre Dame fans get their first look at a beefed-up Jimmy Clausen at the annual Blue-Gold spring game Saturday, though they'll probably have to wait until the fall to get a good indication of how much he's improved.
With backup Evan Sharpley playing for the Irish baseball team at West Virginia on Saturday and recruit Dayne Crist still in high school in California, Clausen will be the only scholarship quarterback in action. Because of that, the game will be more of a controlled scrimmage.
Defensive players will need only to get two hands on Clausen to down him. So fans won't get to see whether the 18 pounds he's put on since the end of the season will allow him to escape the rush any better. Clausen, now 212 pounds, believes it will.
``Gaining the weight just helps in every aspect of the game - my speed, getting out of the pocket, breaking tackles and stuff like that,'' he said. ``It just feels good to have the extra weight on there.''
Coach Charlie Weis said after the season that the biggest challenge for Clausen was to hit the weight room so he'd be better prepared to face the beating he took at quarterback and escape the rush. Too many times Clausen went down easily, Weis said.
Clausen heads into the spring game in a dramatically different situation from a year ago, when he was just three months removed from high school. He was one of three quarterbacks vying for the starter's job then and was slowed by a bone spur on his throwing arm that required arthroscopic elbow surgery.
This year he is the undisputed starting quarterback.
Despite his elbow problems, he managed to become the starter in the second game last season. He missed the eighth and ninth games of the season because of injuries, but started the last three. Clausen said it was the only time last season he was near 100 percent.
Through his first seven games, six of them starts, Clausen had a completion rate of 57.4 percent, for 618 yards with one touchdown and five interceptions, an efficiency rating of 89.51. In his last three games, he had a completion rate of 54.8 percent for 636 yards with six touchdowns and one interception, a 123.9 efficiency rating.
Weis has no doubt that Clausen has improved.
``We made huge, quantum leaps,'' he said. ``But there's plenty of room to grow.''

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