"Service With a Smile"

Notre Dame football fans are living on every word spoken about this year's quarterback battle. Head coach Charlie Weis has been glib when evaluating the signal callers' performances through eight spring practices. The quarterbacks have been diplomatic in their answers on the progress to separate themselves from the others. Sophomore Demetrius Jones assessed the quarterback race.

"Everything is going good," Jones said. "We're all getting equal amount of reps. Everything is starting to unfold. The game is starting to slow down for most of us and everyone is starting to catch their groove. We haven't played football for quite a while and we're a bit rusty. But everyone is starting to get in their groove and now it comes down to who is the most consistent."

It won't be in the answers Jones, Evan Sharpley, Zach Frazer or Jimmy Clausen give to the media that determines who'll be in the top two heading out of spring ball. The play on the field in the 15 sessions, including the Blue-Gold game on April 21st, will give Weis plenty of tape to evaluate the quarterbacks. Those who might have been expecting the four players to sound more like politicians in vying for the position will be extremely disappointed. Jones knows that his time to shine and make an impression is on the field.

"My main goal is service with a smile and doing what I do best," Jones said. "Leadership is one of my main qualities. I think I've been doing a fairly good job."

Weis has broken up the spring session so that each quarterback gets equal reps. The four players will get their own week with the first-team. After this stretch, they'll be bumped back to No. 4, then No. 3 the following week and so on. The system gives a fair shot to each signal caller to strut their stuff with different players. One week, Jones could be throwing to tight end John Carlson, who makes a lot of quarterbacks look good. The next week, the sophomore will be aiming passes towards the third or fourth team tight end. No matter who he is throwing the ball to, Jones wants the make the most out of every practice.

"Of course, that's going to be a highlight of spring ball," Jones said of working with the first-team. "But we're all being evaluated, no matter if we're with the ones, twos, threes or fours. I don't think it matters what group you're with. You have to do the same thing with whatever group you're with because I'm quite sure they're not just going to look at what you did with the ones."

Last season, Jones got some much needed experience in practice. The sophomore was often pegged as the scout team quarterback. Jones imitated Michigan State's Drew Stanton and others leading up to games and earned Weis's praise a few times for how good he looked in those sessions.

"Running the scout team was a big benefit," Jones said. "I was going up against the No. 1 defense. Everything you had to do was on the move. Now, when I'm with the No. 1 offense going against the No. 1 defense, you have more playmakers. If you don't throw that perfect pass on the money, you have guys that can jump up and go get the ball. It makes you look better."

Jones has also gotten a lot bigger since the day he stepped onto campus. As a freshman, Jones' weight was around the 185-pound range. This spring, through hard work and some extra eating, the sophomore is up to 210-213 pounds. The added weight should help Jones absorb the punishment usually received by a quarterback by oncoming defenders.

It will help in another area if Jones so chooses. The Chicago, IL native was known coming out of high school as an athletic quarterback who could hurt teams with both his legs and arm. Jones said on Monday that he ran a 4.4 40-yard dash at the Army All-American practices during his prep years.

This type of speed is rare at the quarterback position. Brady Quinn, although not slow by any means, was nowhere near this quick while handling Weis's system the past two seasons. Quinn was more of a pure pocket passer. Jones has the ability to hurt teams with more than just his arm. It's led to a question of whether Jones is suited for Weis's offense. The Notre Dame head coach said he wants the best guy out there at the quarterback spot and then tailor the offense around his strengths.

"Whoever the best guy is, we'll utilize what he can do," Weis said. "Whoever it is. Whether it's Demetrius or any of the other guys, whoever it's going to be I'm going to build it around the things they do the best. It wouldn't make a difference if it was Demetrius Jones or Phil Simms. I would still do the exact same thing. I would find what they do best and work out from there."

What does Jones do best?

"Just moving the ball and moving the chains," Jones said. "It's a big reason why I'm here and why I got recruited out of high school. Big players make big plays. Coach Weis will build the offense around the quarterback. Of course, we all know what each guy can do and what their strengths are."

Jones has eight more practices, including the Blue-Gold game, to show these strengths. It's not only a chance for Jones to get into the top two heading out of spring but to learn on the fly as well. Last season, he didn't get to see a lot of meaningful reps playing behind Quinn and Sharpley. In addition to the added reps this spring, it's been a crash course to learn the offense on the field. Jones thinks he's close to fully grasping the operation but never will stop learning the nuances of the position.

"I don't think there's ever going to be a day where I step out on the practice field and say, ‘I got this,'" Jones said. "At the quarterback position, there are always things you need to work on. You need to work on timing, meshing with the running backs on play action, getting the reads fast and throwing the ball when the wide receivers come out of their breaks. There's so many different things you can do to better yourself at the quarterback position. The learning never stops."


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