Wenger and Clausen Make the Call

With all the things Notre Dame's young quarterbacks have had to worry about this season, head coach Charlie Weis gave the pre-snap mike read and other calls to fifth-year senior John Sullivan. But with the three-year starting center out for Saturday's game against Duke with injury, replacement Dan Wenger and signal-caller Jimmy Clausen will make the checks together.

The two began preparing for it during Tuesday's practice.

"Thought it went very well," offensive line coach John Latina stated. "Thought it went really, really well. Danny, even though he hasn't played center, he's been practicing center. Not full time because he's been working at the guard position."

Wenger, who didn't play as a freshman, began the season as the Irish's starting right guard, as the Irish staff wanted to get their five best linemen on the field. He played the first three games before getting hurt against Michigan. He missed four games, and since returning against USC, the 6-foot-4, 287-pound sophomore's playing time has been limited.

But with the loss of Sullivan late in the Air Force game last Saturday, Wenger stepped in for the last couple series.

"Actually Danny is a much more natural center than guard, so when he plays guard, he doesn't -- let me just do it on a positive note. He's more comfortable in there," head coach Charlie Weis explained. "That's where he played his whole high school career, and although we'll greatly miss Sully and all he's done on and off the field for us, having a guy like that who is a natural center in there, I think this gets him into his natural position rather than being knocked over at the guard."

A U.S. Army All-American, Wenger became the heir apparent to Sullivan when he signed his letter-of-intent. The time comes a little sooner. Sullivan could be available for the season finale against Stanford.

"I'm excited about Danny playing really his natural position, he was a center in high school and we recruited him as a center as the guy who could be the guy that replaced John. I'm excited about getting him some quality time at a position that's going to be his position."

Weis and Latina both said that Sullivan has been Notre Dame's most consistent offensive linemen this season, on a line that has definitely lacked that, so they expect a little drop off at the position.

But has Wenger been able to close the gap on Sullivan?

"Game time tells you that," Latina stated. "It's going to be good to see him in a game as a center. We've had Sully basically take probably 100 percent of the center snaps for the last couple of years. It's going to be really good to get him in at his natural position, and to be able to do things he's most accustomed to do."

***Graduate assistants together on Bill Curry's staff at Alabama back in 1987, Notre Dame receivers coach Rob Ianello and Duke head coach Ted Roof were roommates.

"It worked out well and we've been friends ever since," Ianello said of the bunking situation.

"He's a terrific guy, I really like him a lot. We talk, keep up with each other during the season."

However, there won't be any text messages between the two this week.

One of the calls Ianello did make to Roof during the off-season was on Peter Vaas's behalf. Vaas had just been let go as Notre Dame's quarterbacks coach, and Ianello recommended him to Roof. Vaas is now Duke's offensive coordinator.

"I thought Peter would do a really good job for him," Ianello said.

***With eight dropped passes against Air Force, Ianello had his receiver stay late after practice and catch balls out of the jugs machine.

All the dropped balls caught him off guard last Saturday.

"We practiced really well," Ianello said. "Wednesday, Thursday, I don't recall a drop on Wednesday or Thursday in practice. This season, that was the first time we had that happen to us. We've had one drop, it was the first time we had multiple drops, so I don't really know a reason for it. I just know we have to not have that happen again.

"I'm not one of those guys that when a kid drops a pass, yells catches the ball. He knows he dropped it. What I will do is talk to him about why he dropped it. If I can see a reason, did he turn his head or his hands wrong? Different things like that and we'll look at that on the film. Obviously they know it's unacceptable."

Ianello's conclusion from the film.

"I think there were some technique issues with one of the drops, I think there were some eye issues with a couple other drops," he said. "So we just have to be better at that all the way through."

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