"I'm not going to announce the quarterback before Georgia Tech," Weis said on Monday in between the first of two practices. "I'm not going to announce anyone. I'm not trying to sandbag anyone. I'll be practical here. The only game all year that I have advantage going in is the first game. That's the only one because once you've played the game, you've shown your cards and on the table."
Junior Evan Sharpley, sophomore Demetrius Jones and Clausen are all in competition to start. During Saturday's open practice at Notre Dame Stadium, Sharpley and Jones were the two doing most of the throwing while Clausen's action in the passing game was limited. Training camp is a lead-up to the contest with the Yellow Jackets, who return eight starters on defense. This same group held the explosive Irish to 14 points in last year's game. More than anything, Weis wants to keep the ball squarely in his court and keep the competition guessing by staying silent on the quarterback race.
"We don't have Brady Quinn anymore," Weis said. "Everyone understands that. What we have is three guys who are all good players, all inexperienced players on the college level. But they are three different types of players. There's no intrinsic value of me saying which guy is doing which before I go into the first game. It's to my advantage and Notre Dame's advantage to do it that way before the first game."
The three signal callers each bring a little something different to the table. Sharpley has an extra year of experience. Jones is the most athletic of the bunch while Clausen is the pure pocket passer. The three different dimensions allows the Irish head coach to mix and match his play-calling to suit each of their strengths.
"I have a core set of plays with all three of them," Weis said. "But I do different things with different players. It causes for me extra thinking and distraction because now I have to figure out what am I going to do and who am I going to use. Once you've utilized that core, you want to expand from that. The only one it's causing more headaches for is me."
Eventually, a decision for the opener will have to be made. According to Weis, starting next Monday the team will start their preparations for Georgia Tech. That's when the repetitions for each quarterback will start to change.
"I can't give them proportionally the same amount of work as you're getting ready to play because you're not getting the team ready to play," Weis said. "By next Monday, I want to start changing the percentages of who is doing what."
***As could be expected, Weis is aware of what's going down in Atlanta as the Yellow Jackets prepare to open the season with a chance to earn a big road victory at Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish head coach more than likely read about the brawl that occurred at the end of practice last week when starting quarterback Taylor Bennett got into a scuffle with defensive end Darrell Robertson.
In addition to the press clippings, the Notre Dame staff has watched all the Georgia Tech contests from the 2006 season. Whether it's the progress of All-ACC running back Tashard Choice or what head coach Chan Gailey has been saying, Weis is up to date.
"We track their personnel," Weis said. "We check their injuries. We see if anyone has been injured in training camp. We try to follow what the media says and if "so and so" are looking good and not looking real good. Unless you want to be unethical and sneak somebody in practice, which I have too many things to worry about to do that, you have to go on what you're hearing but more importantly but what you saw last year."
Notre Dame has changed a bit in the off-season. The Irish lost a bevy of starters from last year's 9-3 team. The biggest loss was Quinn's departure to the NFL. The biggest gain might have been hiring Corwin Brown as defensive coordinator after two lackluster seasons with Rick Minter. Weis knows exactly how the Yellow Jackets will get ready for September 1st on both sides of the ball.
"I think they know Corwin is here and we'll play a version of the 34," Weis said. "I know they know our offense. In addition to our offense, they know we have an athletic quarterback in Demetrius. What if he plays? Everyone says Weis went down to West Virginia for a day. In a day, I don't think we could throw out our offense and put their offense. Could I have gotten a couple of ideas from them to use? Absolutely.
"What you do is practice against those things, practice against our offense and prepare for the 34. People might say, ‘Why would Weis sit there and tell them what to do?' That's what any staff would do. I'm only speaking the obvious."
***Weis said Sunday's practice was the best so far of training camp. The Notre Dame head coach let the team sleep in a bit later than usual to test how they would react on the playing fields. The squad responded with their best effort.
"I've been generally pleased with the elevated level of competition by a number of players, not just at the top, but from the bottom to the top," Weis said of training camp.
It's all part of growing depth at several positions. Weis said there are not many starting spots still unresolved. But that doesn't mean the second and third string players won't see action in contests.
"This year, there's a lot of those second guys that will play a significant role in the game while in the past that wasn't the case," Weis said. "I could see us playing six corners in the first game. Two will start but I could see six getting into the game. That's a lot of depth. It's a nice situation to be in."