Junior quarterback Jimmy Clausen is one of four captains this season for the Fighting Irish football team. He better act like one. There is no doubt in my mind that he has the physical ability to be a Heisman contender, but his maturity, decision-making and win-loss record certainly haven’t matched his numbers.
Clausen started all 13 games last season at quarterback for the Irish and recorded the third-most prolific passing season in Notre Dame history. He completed 268 of his 440 pass attempts (60.9 pct) for 3,172 passing yards (244.0 yards per game) on the year, while tossing 25 touchdowns and a dismal 17 interceptions. The only better statistical seasons were Brady Quinn in 2005 and 2006. Sounds impressive, right? Not when you go 7-6.
Coming out of high school, Clausen was undefeated and had the arm, body, and mechanics of a Division I All-American. But, after a rough freshman and sophomore season, where he spent much of his time on his back or chasing down defensive backs after throwing a pick, Jimmy didn’t look like the top-five prospect he was made out to be.
Up until the second half of last season, he looked like a boy amongst men. Grant it, he was thrown right into the mix as a true freshman, with an under par offensive line. But, at any level, a good quarterback, especially one hailed as the greatest high school quarterback in California state history, should always know to protect the ball, and his 17 interceptions last year didn’t show that he can do so.
Clausen comes into his junior season on the heels of his best game in the blue and gold. After going 22 for 26 with five TD’s and no interceptions versus Hawaii in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, Irish fans began to see the superstar quarterback they were promised. I try to ignore the fact that it was against Hawaii, but after his freshman season, any improvements were miraculous. He has thrown 32 touchdowns in his first two seasons, fairly impressive, but his 23 interceptions overshadow that total in my eyes. I wasn’t the only one yelling at the TV every Saturday, “PROTECT THE BALL JIMMY!”
Clausen ranks second all-time in school history, averaging 192.4 passing yards per game. On Notre Dame's career passing charts, he ranks second in completion percentage, fourth in completions, fifth in attempts, fifth in TD passes and sixth in passing yards. A junior who got off to an early start (it is rare to see a true freshman quarterback), Clausen is on pace to shatter Notre Dame records, but the only thing on his mind, as well as the minds of us fans, is wins. I couldn’t care less if he went down as the greatest college quarterback in history or the worst. If we don’t make a BCS bowl game, there will be hell to pay.
Bottom line: if Clausen makes good decisions under pressure, the Irish will win. He can definitely make the throws, and with a little bit of time in the pocket and some reliable hands, the Irish are a BCS bowl-bound team. In reality, Clausen, who is ranked by college football guru Phil Steele as the tenth best QB in the nation, has been on a one-way track to the NFL since his sophomore year in high school. It is head coach Charlie Weis who is in the hot seat, and Clausen’s performance will determine how well the Irish do, which in turn, will determine whether or not Weis will be looking for a new job by the end of the season.