And believe it or not, Pass No. 50 missed a diving Robby Parris by 6 inches, and had the gall to hit the Meyo Field turf. Pass No. 53 also bounced in front of Parris (something tells me Randy Moss would have reeled it in…as would Santana or Sinorice Moss, for that matter).
But 57 of Jimmy Clausen's 59 passes found the intended target at the quarterback's pro day this afternoon inside the Loftus Center. Most of those offerings arrived with near-perfect accuracy, zip, and spiral action.
"It went well," Clausen stated with a smile. "It felt great out there, just trying to have a lot of fun…you could hear a pin drop," he acknowledged of the sterilized setting, absent defense, and polite group of 16 NFL team representatives, 40-plus media members, and approximately 30 former teammates and coaches in attendance.
"I haven't thrown the ball in front of anybody since the Stanford game," Clausen offered. "I wanted to show them my foot's coming along – it's probably 75-80 percent right now – it feels great throwing the ball; I'm not in any pain so I just wanted to go out there and have some fun."
Former Irish running back James Aldridge joined Tate, Parris and Grimes for the pro audition, one highlighted by Clausen's head-shaking accuracy and Tate's obvious athletic gifts.
"Just different throws," Clausen explained of his plan of attack. "Taking plays from Coach Weis' offense that we did here and some deeper throws (in which) I had to drive the ball. (The type) you're going to see in pro football…so it was great working with Marc (Trestman) to get the plan ready and I thought we executed it."
(Trestman's comments are included below).
On the MendClausen flirted with a third incompletion on a deep post but Tate, as was his wont last season, the Golden One accelerated through the ball at full speed, drawing applause and the requisite "ahhhhs" from the otherwise sleepy gathering.
Nearly all of Clausen's movement on the day was of the straight drop-back variety.
"That's why I didn't do any movement, because of my foot," Clausen answered when queried about the lack of roll-out passes in his regimen. "My toe feels great; it's just the top of my ankle, for being in a boot for eight weeks and putting a lot of pressure on it. It's still weak so I have to get that stronger. That's why I didn't do any boots (bootlegs) today.
Clausen, a sociology major during his time at the school, likely understands the intricacies of opposing defenses better than he does the vagaries of human anatomy.
"Tendon and ligament is pretty much the same thing," Clausen curiously offered of his injury. "Two torn tendons, you can call them ligaments. I don't know."
Clausen mentioned he should be near 100 percent within the month. He's unsure whether he'll attend the NFL draft though he has been invited to New York for the festivities.
Regardless of his location or eventual destination on Draft Day, Clausen believes he's well-equipped to handle the challenges of the NFL.
"I think I have a real big advantage," Clausen noted of his preparation for the next level under Weis.
Clausen noted that he's met with the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Browns and will visit the Buffalo Bills and St. Louis Rams before having a private workout with the Redskins on April 15 (in South Bend). He expects Tate, Parris, Grimes, and Aldridge to once again join him for the audition.
"The Redskins called their agents, so I think they'll be out here again with me on the 15th."
Two Minutes with TrestmanClausen worked with current Montreal Alouettes head coach and noted quarterback guru Marc Trestman on the workout's script. Trestman had nothing but positive comments following the effort.
"He was already extremely well-prepared," Trestman noted of Clausen's work with Weis as a collegian. "Coming out, he's ready-made. He's been in an NFL environment for three years, coached by a guy who's done it," Trestman continued. "So he's already assimilated the protections and idiosyncrasies that it takes some guys in the NFL a couple of years to get. So he's ready-made and the scouts and coaches, they've already seen him in 33 games."
Trestman was equally impressed with the toughness and grit Clausen displayed as he played through the world's most famous toe injury in the season's final 9 ½ games.
"He played inhibited this past year. To throw over 400 passes and have the touchdown/interception ratio (28/4) and protecting the football; that's the No. 1 thing any coach is going to look for: how well is he going to protect the football? And its evident he does that, not only with his pocket presence, but with the location of his throws."
Trestman was asked, ideally, what Clausen could improve upon.
"I don't think there's any formula for a quarterback. He's proven he has intangibles; he's proven he can play in the limelight; he's proven he can move the football team (offense); he's proven he can play when he's inhibited by injury.
"Before you can put a grade on a quarterback, you have to see him in person, and it was certainly more than evident today that he can spin the football and make all the throws. (It was) one of the best workouts – as good a workout as I've seen. He really threw a perfect game today: he was six inches off on two deep balls and they were great throws. He had one ball fluttered that looked like it slipped out of his hands, but still accurate."
Trestman provided an illustration of the isolated life of a professional coach, offering the following assessment of what I deemed (above) as the world's most famous toe injury.
"When I watched tape of this year, I did not now he had the foot injury. To find out he was playing with that type of injury for the whole season is pretty amazing."
(Trestman's notable former pupils include Bernie Kosar (at Miami, Fla and with the Cleveland Browns); Rich Gannon (Minnesota 1991); Scott Mitchell (Detroit 1997); Steve Young (San Francisco 49ers 1995); and Jake Plummer (Arizona Cardinals 1998).)
A Show of SupportTate remained for interviews following the session and responded to recent media criticism of Clausen as a "bad team guy."
"It's frustrating, because he's a guy that's grown to be one of my best friends," Tate offered following the workout. "He's my quarterback, and I know him. I think he's a great guy. He's a competitor and passionate about the game and he plays with emotion. That's what the league needs. When you have 11 guys coming after you every play you have to play with some emotion and with some swagger.
"I think that's what you need in the NFL and he has it."
Though not an exhaustive list, the following Irish players were on hand to watch Clausen's personal pro day this afternoon:
Kyle Rudolph, Braxston Cave, Chris Stewart, Gary Gray, John Goodman, Dayne Crist, Nate Montana, Michael Floyd, Robert Blanton, Trevor Robinson, Hafis Williams, Brandon Newman, Mike Golic, Jr., Manti Te'o, Dan McCarthy, Armando Allen, and Darrin Walls.
Departing teammates Kyle McCarthy, Paul Duncan, and Asaph Schwapp were also in attendance, as was wide receivers coach Tony Alford, offensive coordinator Charley Molnar, tight ends coach Mike Denbrock, outside linebackers coach Kerry Cooks, defensive backs coach Chuck Martin, director of football operations Chad Klunder, director of football personnel Tim McDonnell, and athletics director Jack Swarbrick.
For those of you who remember the halcyon days of the early 90s, former Irish nose guard Oliver Gibson was also in attendance for a separate scouting venture. Gibson was the 1989 USA Today Defensive Player of the Year and remains the unofficial school leader in games played with 51 from 1990 through 1994 (Sam Young appeared in 50 games from 2006 through 2009 without the benefit of a redshirt season).