"(Clausen's experience) definitely allows you mentally to do some things that there were no time last year," he said. "It all starts with the offensive line. It's great to have all these imaginative ideas on how you're going to expand the offense, okay? But the first thing you have to do is make sure the quarterback isn't getting killed. He's ready mentally to handle a bunch more than where he was last year, a bunch more."
Weis called the leeway that Clausen had to change things at the line of scrimmage last year "minimal", but expects him to have plenty of opportunities this year. He also noted that the reason he did not give Clausen more was in an effort to keep him healthy. "(Clausen) was not the problem, he could have handled it last year."
Offensive coordinator Mike Haywood said that the process of giving Clausen more would come with time and also touched on what Weis said about it not being all about the quarterback.
"We're going to throw some ‘Check-with-me's in early. As we throw ‘Check-with-me's in, if the offense is executing them, then we'll increase them," Haywood said. "If we're not executing them from an offensive point of view, then we won't call them. It's the entire team. It doesn't matter if the quarterback can do it, if the line can't do it. It doesn't matter if the line can do it, if the quarterback can't do it."
Quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus understands how that progression works and likes where Clausen is now, but acknowledged that he still has some growing to do.
"He's not going to run the offense at the line of scrimmage or anything, but you start to gain experience and you gain knowledge. Jimmy has worked really hard to gain knowledge of our playbook and our system and what the defenses are doing," Powlus said. "That's an important part of playing the quarterback position. You start off trying to figure out what you're doing and then try to make sure you know what everybody else is doing. From there you try to take it to what's the defense doing and that's the point where we're at."
Clausen is clearly excited to have more responsibilities.
"I feel great about that. Obviously, (Coach Weis) has confidence in me and my knowledge of the system has gotten a lot better than last year," Clausen said. "I'm trying to work on getting everything down in the playbook, the little nuances. That's going to help this season."
Clausen and Haywood go way back: Haywood recalled his first impressions of a young, young Clausen.
"I think he was 8 or 9 years old when Rick (Clausen) was at LSU and I was at LSU. We stood on the sidelines one day throwing the ball around for 20 minutes," Haywood said.
Clausen was probably closer to 13 at the time, but he still left an impression on his future offensive coordinator.
"He could sling it."
No changes for Haywood: Weis reasserted his confidence in Haywood as a playcaller and the importance of him being more of a head coach. For Haywood, he said not much has changed in his approach to 2008 even though he will be the guy calling the plays.
"There's not really any difference because I did the same thing last year and the previous years. You line up, you watch the tape, you pick up on tendencies," he said. "It's the same process, the difference is you're looking down at the call sheet and you're calling the plays."
Haywood says that he and Weis have always had a good relationship and that they almost always have the same first thoughts. Haywood said that while their second ideas may differ, Weis is still the head guy.
"Some people say what happens when coach asks you to do something that you don't want to do," he said. "You have to understand that he's the general. I say 'Yes sir' and I march up the hill."
Depth Chart Movement: There have been some changes to the two-deep since the last depth chart was released prior to spring. The removal of Darrin Walls from the left cornerback position puts Raeshon McNeil at number one followed by Gary Gray. McNeil had been listed as backup behind Terrail Lambert, now that position is filled by Leonard Gordon.
John Ryan is no longer the backup to Morrice Richardson at defensive end and is now listed as Kerry Neal's backup at the Will position. Justin Brown was the other starter at defensive end, but Pat Kuntz is back and now Brown is Richardson's backup.
Harrison Smith has apparently taken over as starter at Sam, but is also listed as David Bruton's backup at free safety. Brian Smith was the starter at Sam, but is now listed as number one at Mike ahead of Toryan Smith.
Eric Olsen has won the position at left guard and Michael Turkovich has been shifted to left tackle where he is listed along with Paul Duncan and the word "OR". Andrew Nuss is listed as the backup at left guard. Chris Stewart is the starter at right guard ahead of Trevor Robinson.
Allen is now listed as the number one punt and kickoff returner with Grimes number two with punts and Golden Tate second in line for kickoffs. The kickers are the same except for Ryan Burkhart now being listed ahead of Brandon Walker for kickoffs.
Freshmen will have to earn it: Weis talked about how the first-year players will be starting out lower on the depth chart than they have in the past, but he did have some good things to say about some of them.
"Jonas (Gray) is one locked-up unit," Weis said. "When you see him out there for a freshman, you don't get any more chiseled, well-defined athlete than this guy. And for a guy who is young, he shows very, very good leadership skills. The players seem to gravitate to him. We always talk about that special something, well, you know, the players like being around this guy. That usually bodes well for what's going to happen down the line."
Weis also said that Clausen had high praise for Michael Floyd after summer workouts.
"The feedback on Michael Floyd from Jimmy has been through the roof. It's been very, very, very good, very, very, very positive," Weis said. "You know, look at him physically, he doesn't, once again, I don't know but when you see him out there in practice, he doesn't look like a freshman. He looks like an upperclassman that's been around a long time. You look at him and say that's what I'm talking about."
Clausen did not want to single Floyd out from any of the other receivers, saying "He looked good, not just him but all of the receivers. All of the receivers looked real good. He's a great athlete just like the rest of the receivers we have."
But when prompted, Clausen did offer some individual praise of the freshman.
"He's strong, fast, everything," Clausen said of Floyd. "But I can't spill all of the beans right now, you'll have to wait until September 6."
Loss of Walls will hurt depth: Weis said that he is very confident in the guys that will fill in for Walls, but that it brings everyone on the depth chart that much closer to the field.
"I think the biggest loss is depth. Any time you take a front line player out, I think we have front line players behind them, but now you have to look at the trickle down effect," Weis said. "That means that there's guys that are third team that are not too far away from getting on the field."
Healthy Start: The Irish begin camp in phenomenal shape health-wise and would love to head into the season the same way.
"The only one that is just borderline is Will Yeatman," Weis said. "About a month ago he had a bit of a hammy. He ran really good when we were running, he ran really well and he's going to practice. I think that I would probably limit him a little bit from extra running and things like that in the very beginning. But everyone's practicing. Everyone's healthy. Everyone's in good academic standing."