Jimmy Clausen update

Tennessee has four prospects making official visits this weekend, but it's a half-dozen unofficial visitors that could have a greater impact on the Vols' football future.

Jimmy Clausen, who projects to be the nation's top quarterback prospect next year, flew into Knoxville Friday morning along with several of his talented teammates.

Clausen's renewed interest in Tennessee can be summed up in two words: David Cutcliffe. If Cutcliffe weren't on UT's staff, Clausen wouldn't be in town.

Clausen has aspirations of playing in the NFL. Cutcliffe has helped developed two No. 1 overall picks in the NFL draft and a No. 3 overall pick.

The Clausens didn't feel oldest son Casey Clausen, a UT quarterback from 2000-03, developed as he should have. After a terrific sophomore season, Casey was projected by some to possibly be an eventual first-round pick. Instead, Casey suffered a broken collarbone, didn't put up big numbers his last two seasons, seemed to regress fundamentally, didn't get invited to the Senior Bowl and didn't get drafted.

The latter three points remain a sore spot for the Clausens.

Yet, Jim Clausen says he's grateful for the opportunity the Vols gave Casey and second son Rick, an LSU transfer who bailed the Vols out toward the end of the 2004 season, earned MVP honors at the Cotton Bowl and pulled out a near-miraculous victory at LSU early last season.

``We love the University of Tennessee,'' Jim Clausen said. ``Don't think for one second that we don't have a special place in our heart for Tennessee.''

But that doesn't guarantee Jimmy Clausen will become a Vol. Far from it.

As dad says: ``Tennessee has a lot to make up.''

Why? Not because Rick wasn't the full-time starter in 2005, but because of the way Casey's career ended. Instead of being on an NFL roster, Casey is a graduate assistant at Mississippi State.

Jim Clausen said Notre Dame and Southern Cal are the two leaders for Jimmy. Jimmy has been to Notre Dame five times in four months, dad said.

``David needs to get to know Jimmy,'' Jim Clausen said. ``I asked what would be different for Jimmy compared to Casey, and David said, `Me.' David's had two No. 1 picks and a No. 3 pick and he knows how to develop quarterbacks.''

Jim Clausen said the family is very fond of John Chavis, UT's defensive coordinator.

``Chief said, `We'll make up a lot of ground this weekend,''' Jim Clausen said.

Jim Clausen said Jimmy and South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier developed a ``chemistry'' during one of Jimmy's unofficial visits to Columbia, S.C.

The father described Notre Dame's Charlie Weis as ``precise, concise,'' and he ``makes no promises.''

Pete Carroll is more outgoing and has built a power that includes several players the Clausens played with and against in high school.

Jim Clausen pointed out that a Southern Cal quarterback, Matt Cassell, threw 11 career passes as a backup to Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart, yet was a seventh-round draft pick, while Casey is No. 2 on most passing lists at Tennessee (behind Peyton Manning) but wasn't drafted.

Jimmy Clausen likely will make his decision before the summer ends because he plans to be a mid-term enrollee.

Given the Clausen's relationship with Tennessee, it might be harder for Jimmy to say no to the Vols as opposed to yes to USC or Notre Dame. But it does appear that Tennessee is back in the chase for Jimmy Clausen.

``Jimmy will make the decision for Jimmy,'' dad said.

Joining Jimmy Clausen on the unofficial visit are running back Mark Tyler (son of former NFL player Wendell Tyler), linebacker Casey Mathews (son of former NFL linebacker Clay Mathews), safety Marshall Jones and three other Division 1-A prospects.

Jim Clausen said Tyler really likes Tennessee.

HOOP NOTES: Pat Forde of ESPN.com said Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl is one of his top two candidates for national coach of the year, along with Bruce Weber of Illinois. … South Carolina coach Dave Odom said he thinks UT's Dane Bradshaw is a candidate for MVP in the SEC – strong praise for a player who averages less than 8 points and doesn't rank among the top 12 rebounders in the league. … The Vols are expecting a third consecutive crowd of over 20,000 when South Carolina comes to town for a 5 p.m. Saturday tip. It would be UT's fourth crowd this season of more than 20,000. That hasn't happened since the first two years Thompson-Boling Arena was open. … Tennessee is one of 10 programs that has its men's and women's basketball programs ranked in the coaches' Top 25 poll.

FOOTBALL NOTES: Kelley Washington, a third-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals three years ago, is a restricted free agent and several teams are interested in signing for the former UT star. Washington has had no ill affects from the neck surgery that prematurely ended his Vol career in 2002. … Former Vol defensive tackle Rashad Moore, who reached an injury settlement with Seattle, was at the Senior Bowl shopping for a new team.

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