Looking For Leadership

Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis is confident that his team will have plenty of leaders this year, but he is interested in seeing who 'the leaders of the leaders' will be.

While the Notre Dame defense could point to Maurice Crum as its clear leader a year ago, there was some hesitation among offensive players when asked who the leader of their group was.

Head coach Charlie Weis attributed some of the uncertainty to the fact that senior receiver David Grimes battled injuries for most of the season.

"He was quiet, but he was a clear-cut leader of the offense," said Weis. "He's hurt at Michigan State and he's barely playing the rest of the year. It's really tough to lead when you're on the bench, which is really what David went through the whole year."

The Irish head into 2009 with four senior offensive linemen on the top of the depth chart, but Weis is confident that the offense will get leadership from multiple spots.

"It doesn't just have to be Sam Young or Eric Olsen, for example. It could be Armando Allen, it could be Kyle Rudolph. Guys that basically have played a whole bunch of plays. It could be Michael Floyd, for that matter," said Weis. "Those guys are all going to be playing a whole bunch. So it doesn't have to be just a senior or a fourth-year guy to be in that position. Or it doesn't just have to be the quarterback.

"We have a number of guys that are viewed internally as leaders of the team. I'm interested to see who the leaders of the leaders are going to end up being."

As Weis said, it does not have to be the quarterback, but it sure would be nice if Jimmy Clausen was able to take control of the Irish offense in his junior year.

Weis has met with Clausen and Dayne Crist about how important leadership is when it comes from under center.

"I talk about what great quarterbacks have and what guys that aren't great don't have," said Weis. "Great quarterbacks are perceived by not only the receivers, the guys that are getting the ball in their hands but by the offensive linemen, by the running backs, by the tight ends, by the defensive backs, by the linebackers and everyone else.

"Great quarterbacks are guys that the whole team has confidence in."

Clausen and Crist enjoyed the meeting.

"He brought up Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, being two of the best quarterbacks and how hard they work on the field and off the field, interact with their teammates and watching film," said Clausen. "Doing the little extra stuff to make them the leader of the team."

"We just kind of went over an overview of how we can apply a lot of the messages that a lot of these quarterbacks are portraying to the rest of the team and just rallying guys because we want to have a great season this year," said Crist, who is trying to compete with Clausen for the number one spot. "Regardless of who's in there, we're trying to win every game we play."

Quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus believes that Crist has the ability to lead from the bench.

"He does have definitely good leadership qualities and he's just got to let his personality show through," said Powlus. "You've got to be you whether you're on the field or not and if you're you and you're expressing your feelings and your thoughts, not a raving maniac about it, but you're being you then guys will follow you."

There is not necessarily a correlation between ability and leadership.

"There's been quarterbacks that are serviceable. You don't need to be the best player on the team. But you need to be perceived by your teammates as the leader of the team," said Weis. "But I can tell you that if your teammates don't believe that you can lead them to victory, even whether it's handing it off or just whatever it is doing, then usually you don't have much of a chance."

But while Weis has seen quarterbacks who were not great players be great leaders, it is clear that Notre Dame is hoping for Clausen to be both.

Clausen has shown a tendency to go off by himself when the offense is struggling, but Weis wants him to stay involved with his teammates no matter what.

"Coach talked about that. Back in high school when things would go wrong, I kind of would go to the side and gather my thoughts and just get some time for myself to just think and get the stuff going in the right way after some bad plays or something went wrong," Clausen said. "I need to work on that and that's one of the things that Coach said to me that I need to work on, just be the same person when things go right and things go wrong."

Clausen acknowledged that the shift will not come easy.

"It's going to be hard," he said. "It's not easy changing the way it used to be, but I've worked as hard as I can to do that. During practice when things go bad just stay levelheaded just like when things go right."

One thing that will not change is Clausen's dedication to putting in extra time at the Notre Dame football offices.

"He wants the guys to see me in the Gug when no one is around watching tape, bringing guys in, watching extra tape against other teams or stuff that we're doing that we need to make adjustments. Hanging out with different guys in the locker room," said Clausen. "Just be a team player on the field and off the field."

While it may be a bit of challenge for Clausen to change his approach during games, his changes off the field are more signs of maturation.

"They are mostly natural, but coming in as a freshman you can't do that, you're just trying to fit in as best you can," said Clausen. "Last year I was gradually increasing, now is the time that I have to put my foot on the gas and start getting everything going."

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