Clausen to be in Command

Jimmy Clausen admits that he did not have a very strong understanding of the playbook in 2007, but worked hard in the offseason to gain more knowledge of the system for 2008. Now with that added confidence the sophomore quarterback feels more comfortable in the huddle and is ready to take more of a leadership role on the team.

Quarterback Jimmy Clausen is not disappointed by the recent revelation that Notre Dame is going to try to be a run-first offense.

"It's going to be great for the team. If a team can run the ball it opens up so many more options," Clausen said. "You've got playaction pass, dropback pass, so if a team is able to run the ball it just going to help the offense and the team that much more."

Count Clausen among the other Notre Dame players and coaches who think that the increased size and ability of the offensive line is going to make the ground attack go.

"It's great playing behind those guys. Those guys are great guys who work real, real hard. They're out to prove to everyone that they're a real good unit," he said. "They keep working hard each and everyday just like the rest of us. In the huddle, those guys are pretty good guys and I'm just so thankful to have those guys protecting me."

Clausen will have an impact in the running game as well as he will have a heavier load of making calls at the line of scrimmage.

"Coach (Charlie) Weis has opened up the playbook like that for me since I've been able to gain more knowledge of the playbook. I think that's going to help the team to put a team in a better situation when the defense presents a different look to us that we didn't think was going to come," the sophomore quarterback said. "(You) try to get the offense in the best play that we can for that play so whether it's making a different Mike call or something like that."

Last year, Weis put the responsibility of making Mike calls on senior center John Sullivan instead of a first-year quarterback. Clausen admitted that he probably was not ready to do all of that in 2007 saying, "Probably not."

Clausen said that he has a stronger grasp of the offense in a lot of areas.

"Last year I really didn't know the protections too well. This year I know what's going on when things happen, where I'm supposed to throw the ball and where I'm supposed to look," he said. "You know in certain situations like if they bring two strong you're throwing a hot and if they're bringing a weak corner or something like that you're going to throw the sight adjust to the receiver."

The sophomore is starting to feel as comfortable with the advanced Notre Dame offense as he did with the high school offense that he ran at Oaks Christian in which he put up ridiculous numbers.

"I think so," he said when asked. "In high school I knew what was going on, I knew the offense really well and I think I have a real good grasp of the offense right now so it kind of relates to one another in that aspect."

The quarterback also feels that he has a stronger relationship with his receivers.

"I think that we just have better chemistry this year. Myself and the rest of the quarterbacks were able to throw to the receivers all during the offseason," he said. "I wasn't able to throw last year during the offseason because of my elbow. We have real good chemistry. We know that in certain situations the receiver will do this and I'll throw the ball here."

Classmate Golden Tate earned a spot on the two-deep at receiver and like Weis said on Monday, Clausen sees Tate getting better everyday.

"Golden's worked really hard this offseason, He was really good at running go's last year. That's what he did run go's and catch everything. He's a great athlete and we've just got to get him the ball," said Clausen. "What he's worked on is becoming a complete receiver. As you know, in high school he was a running back so he really didn't know how to play the position and I think he's done a real good job of working hard trying to get better at playing wide receiver this year."

With the Irish season now less than two weeks away, Clausen can hardly restrain himself.

"I'm real anxious, I can't wait to get out there. I go out to practice everyday real hyped up, ready to go and trying to get better each and everyday going up to Sept. 6," he said. "It's not just me, it's the rest of team, we're really excited. We wish we could play a game this weekend, but we've got to wait another weekend and we're going to be ready to go."

As a college football fan, Clausen will use this week to do be just a viewer.

"It's going to be fun. College football is coming around and I'm real excited for it," he said. "The first game is Thursday and I'll definitely be watching."

But even as a fan, Clausen does not buy in to the preseason lists by media organizations ranking the country's top quarterbacks and players in line for breakout seasons, some of which he was on.

"I didn't even see my name in those, so this is the first time that I've heard that," he said. "But I don't pay attention to that kind of stuff, I'm just focused on the season, helping the team win and going out each and everyday just working hard."

Clausen also does not pay too much attention to what the public's perception of him is.

"That's the public, they can have their views if they want, but like I said I'm just trying to help this team win."

He understands helping his team win is his number one job and that with victories will come respect, not from the media or the public, but from his peers.

"You're not going to take control of the whole entire offense and the whole entire team until you start making plays out on the field and that hasn't happened yet because we haven't played a game yet," he said. "Once the season starts we'll see what happens."

So with the improved chemistry with his receivers, an offensive line that he expects to be improved in both run and pass blocking and an increased understanding of the game, how much better will Clausen be as a player in 2008?

"I know my knowledge of the game has gotten significantly better, but we'll see Sept. 6 how much of a better player I am."


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