Sharpley, Jones and Clausen Down The Stretch

Here is how Demetrius Jones envisions it. He is the starting quarterback for Notre Dame. The sophomore drops back to pass, throws it up, and finds Demetrius Jones open for a touchdown.

Two things Jones is, is personable and funny. He told reporters Tuesday morning before Notre Dame's second fall practice that he dreams of himself running the Irish offense. When asked what the offense would look like, he gave that fantasy play drawing a huge laugh.

While Jones can easily win over a crowd, winning the quarterback derby between himself, junior Evan Sharpley and freshman Jimmy Clausen won't be as easy, as head coach Charlie Weis is searching for the guy to be Brady Quinn's successor. The dual-threat Jones thinks a lot about what the offense would be capable of, if he was running the show.

"In my dreams I do, but right now I'm just trying to go out there and work on the necessary things for me to be a better quarterback," the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Chicago product said. "With his type of mindset and the way he does build the offense around the quarterback, I can only imagine the type of things he would do to exploit my strengths."

Weis spent almost all the time with the quarterbacks during Notre Dame's first fall practice on Monday, and will do so the majority of camp. He is hoping to know who is guy is no later than the second week of practice. Georgia Tech, Notre Dame's first opponent likely won't know until the Irish take the field for their first offensive snap.

"I think that they all showed some promise," Weis said. "They threw it okay in relation to who they are. They ran the team okay."

Before Tuesday's practice, Weis planned a meeting with quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus and the three guys competing for the job. The topic, how to carry yourself as a quarterback in the huddle and at the line of scrimmage. Weis wants a guy with a presence about him. He is looking for a guy that has earned respect from the rest of the players in the huddle. He needs a guy that can take the play, understand what it is, and make the call confidently to the rest of the huddle. All of that on top of being fundamentally sound and proving they have the abilities to make plays when the ball is in their hands.

"Realistically, they're a lot of things that we find that are going to be more important to these guys, the little nuances you take for granted when Brady was the quarterback," Weis said.

In the spring, Weis stated that Sharpley ran the operation the best, Clausen threw the ball the best, and Jones made the most plays. With that being said, none of them did enough for Weis to give any of the three a public edge over the other. As far as Tuesday's meeting goes, Sharpley for the most part has this area of a discussion down. The 6-foot-2, 212-pound Marshall, Mich., product also earned players respect as a team leader by helping organize seven-on-seven drills this summer with the other captains.

"Being a quarterback basically my entire life, it's something you develop over time," Sharpley said. "Playing in high school and being here as many years as I've been here, you develop it over the years.

"Being one of the older guys here, I kind of took it upon myself, and a lot of the captains did as well, to kind of organize (seven-on-sevens) and get things rolling, especially for these younger guys since we have so many of them."

With Jones's personality, he is certainly capable of having guys rally around him. Clausen helped lead Oaks Christian (Calif.) to four-straight CIF-Southern Section Championships, going 42-0 as a starter, so he also can get teammates to play well with him.

Though Sharpley has been around Weis and the program for two years, and was Quinn's backup last season, he could fairly be considered one of the pups alongside Jones and Clausen. Or he is at least a little green, being that he has thrown just two passes in his career with one completion for seven yards.

Eight starters have to be replaced on offense, so the quarterback Weis is looking for cannot be a guy out there just to run the operation. He is looking for a guy that can make plays and he'll manage the game as the play caller and head coach.

Back in 2000, freshman Matt LoVecchio was asked to just manage the game by head coach Bob Davie and offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers. But he had an experienced group with over 10 teammates on offense that went on to play in the NFL around him. LoVecchio helped the Irish to seven straight wins as the starter, and the Irish played in their first ever Bowl Championship Series game.

"Like if we had the best offensive line and tight ends and wide receivers and running backs in the country, you could play with a guy that just manages the game," Weis explained. "I've seen several teams go on to win championships, just playing with a quarterback that just manages the team. Now when you are playing with a more inexperienced lot like we have this year, you can't just count on a guy just to manage the team, because then the only games you're going to win are the games you're supposed to win. Those nail biter games, those ones that could go either way, it's a pretty even match-up on paper, if you want to win a fair amount of those, you can't just take the easy way out and go the safe route."

Weis said that he wouldn't be against playing two guys at the position in games, if that is what presents itself.

"I don't think that is really Coach Weis's style, but he is the head man in charge and if that's something he decides on doing, then that's his decision," Jones said.

One thing Weis doesn't want to do is overload whoever his new quarterback is going to be with information. With Quinn, he could make one little hand signal during the two-minute drill, the former All-American knew a formation, a protection and a play. Right now, the quarterbacks are trying to learn the few checks and reads they know at the line of scrimmage already. Weis is hoping for some separation soon between the three.

In the mean time, all three are getting equal reps, and both Sharpley and Jones are taking them like they're the starter.

"I'm going to approach it the same way I did in the spring," Sharpley said. "It's a great opportunity for me to compete and be the starter. That's obviously my goal. I'm going to go into it and prepare like I am the starter. Each day is a new day, and a practice is a practice.

"There is always obviously things you can work on," Sharpley later added. "That's why we're here right now. That's why I came here in the summer to work on some little things whether it be footwork or learning the playbook more. And obviously that's what we're doing in camp right now is working on those fundamentals and getting better leading up to the season."

Jones said much of the same.

"Basically mental toughness, staying consistent, getting the guys riled up, making sure they want to go out there and beat the defense on every single play," he said of what he is doing to earn the job.

"Just be consistent and that's basically what I think I need to do the most. Nothing more and nothing less.

"That's part of competing and being quarterback. You've got to win the team over and you've got to be a leader and earn their trust. At the same time, I'm working on all the things I need to do individually."

And sometimes, Jones is thinking about Jones to Jones for a Notre Dame touchdown.


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