Copyright by Global Electronic Telecommunications, publishers of IrishEyes.Com
August 16, 2001
Clark and Holiday Face Fateful Countdown
By The IrishEyes.Com NewsService
NOTRE DAME, Ind. (IE) – The clock began ticking for Carlyle Holiday and Jared Clark Thursday in the dampness on practice fields drenched by a downpour in the middle of the night.
The heavy rains and an intermittent, light drizzle in the morning didn't deter Bob Davie and more than 100 players who are members of the 2001 edition of the Fighting Irish who took to the practice fields on the west side of campus for the first day of pre-season drills.
To assistant coaches and to the media, it was a surprise that Davie didn't move practice indoors to the Loftus Center, but he said he just wanted to get going outside.
"I had every coach wantin' to go inside," Davie said. "They were like a bunch of little kids, noses pressed up against the windows, waiting for me to make the decision whether we were going or not. "I wanted to come out here. It's great to just get outside and get going a bit."
The Irish were in helmets and shorts and without pads. They were enthusiastic, even looked jaunty; but while this is a senior-dominated, mature team with only a few positions up for grabs at the outset, each practice is critically important for quarterbacks Holiday and Clark.
Davie and Kevin Rogers have made it clear that Matt LoVecchio, who went 7-1 in his starts last season, will be the No. 1 quarterback when the Irish march into Nebraska for their season opener on Sept. 8. Practice time is important as well for LoVecchio, who gets no guarantees to start once the season is in full swing; but it is vitally important for Holiday and Clark, as vital as oxygen.
EQUALS NOW, BUT HOW LONG? During spring practice, LoVecchio, Holiday and Clark were treated as equals—each one of them getting an equal number of snaps under center as Davie and his offensive coordinator, Rogers, wanted to probe the unique talents and athleticism of the then still freshmen without any cost to any of them or their egos.
On Thursday, it remained the same. LoVecchio, Holiday and Clark each took the same number of snaps under center during team passing drills. It will remain like that for a few days; then LoVecchio will begin getting more snaps with Holiday and Clark sharing an equal number.
But one day, in the next week or two, Holiday's and Clark's performance up to that point will determine who gets the nod at No. 2 and who falls to No. 3 in the quarterback derby. Davie said that decision probably won't be made until after a few scrimmages, but it's inevitable.
"That's just how it has to be because there's only so many reps to go around," said Davie. "We're going to have to at some point say, ‘You're one, you're two, and you're three."
Davie and Rogers not only have to get LoVecchio ready for Nebraska and Purdue on the road in the first two games, but also prepare an honest-to-goodness No. 2 in the event of an injury like the one that occurred to Arnaz Battle in the second game last season against Nebraska; or to bring in if LoVecchio utterly fails.
"It's Matt's job right now because of the situation we're in," said Rogers, noting that the Irish have a tight end (Gary Godsey) and a wide receiver (Battle) who have taken more game snaps than the two quarterbacks behind LoVecchio. "I don't think you want to put a guy, who has never been under center before, in live action in his first game against Nebraska away.
"It's one of those situations where if it's not going well and we need to make a change, we make a change."
EACH HAS GIVEN DUE: The news that the three young, talented quarterbacks will finally be distinguished by their position on the depth chart hit Holiday and Clark for the first time this week. So far, in their public conduct and comments, the three quarterbacks have been model citizens and teammates.
Holiday and Clark have routinely given LoVecchio his due; LoVecchio, in turn, continues to work as if the starting position is up for grabs.
"Matt has it pretty much locked up for the Nebraska game. He's a very good quarterback," acknowledged Clark. "He has shown he can get it done in a game. I couldn't tell you what it's going to take to beat him out."
Privately, Clark and Holiday have had to wrestle with demons—the possibility that even though they were stars in high school, sought by big-time college programs nationwide, they may not consistently see playing time at Notre Dame.
You would expect them to be confident, and they are. They will go about their business in practice, doing the best they can, learning all they can in the three meetings a day they have with their position coach and in the two-a-day, on-field practice sessions before classes begin. Yet, knowing that soon one of them will see greatly reduced practice snaps sends a reality home like last night's thunderclap.
"Reps…they're very important," Clark told IrishEyes. "You try to get as many reps as you can get. You got to get used to the guys you're playing with. You got to get used to the receivers you're throwing to, you got to get used to the defenses you're playing against.
"Without reps, it's like going into a game blind."
More to the point, without reps—you're not going into a game.
"The first two weeks of camp are very important," said Holiday. "You got to go out there and keep improving—passing, running, mentally and physically. And when those reps get cut down, that's a big part because without reps they can't see what you can do and you don't get any better.
"So, it plays a major importance."
THE FUTURE? Clark, the biggest of the three quarterbacks and generally credited with having the best throwing motion and arm, says he has no intention of transferring if things don't work out for him at quarterback; but he won't rule it out.
"I don't want to say ‘No' because if I do end up going somewhere, I look like a liar," Clark said. "I don't see myself going anywhere right now."
Clark said even if he falls to No. 3, "It's not going to affect the way I look at things. I'm going to go out there everyday and practice as hard as I can. I'm going to try to get as good as I can, and you never know when you're going to be called on. I just try to practice every day like it's going to be a game."
Holiday concedes he has had to make a big adjustment in not playing after being rated one of the top quarterbacks coming out of high school. He is an exceptional athlete, built in the mold of Donovan McNabb who Rogers coached at Syracuse.
He can slither through traffic on an option run and has high-jumped 6-foot-6. But even Rogers acknowledges those athletic skills won't necessarily get him on the field under center.
"He's legitimately a great athlete," Rogers said. "He's a guy that legitimately can play five positions on this team. He might be a tailback, he could be a wide receiver, he could be a safety and he probably could be an outside linebacker. You're talking about that kind of an athlete.
"But quarterback is a position that is so different and those (athletic) qualities are not necessarily what make a great quarterback. It's going to be interesting if he's got those intangible qualities that make a great quarterback. And if he