As Clausen grows, the hope of Notre Dame blooms in spring
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Some 30,000 sets of expectant eyes at Notre Dame Stadium probably didn't grasp what they saw last Saturday, the precise meaning of the football cutting its parabolic, ground-to-air-to-ground path over more than 60 yards of turf.
They likely didn't comprehend the context immediately, because few were there two weeks earlier for Notre Dame's other open practice of the spring. Maybe halfway through drills that began at 7:30 a.m. that day, the offense faced the defense, full-tilt, in the red zone. And Jimmy Clausen threw three touchdown passes on the first four snaps.
The sequence was as eye-opening as the free coffee in the lobby of the Guglielmino Athletics Complex and arguably more necessary. It suggested the presence of an anchor, a calm where matters had been, to use Irish coach Charlie Weis' own word, "chaotic" a year earlier.
So two Saturdays later, in that cauldron of overcaffeinated hope known as a spring game, a pass uncorked by Clausen landed in a receiver's hands 57 yards from the line of scrimmage. Counting the drop-back, it traveled even farther. It was a crowd-rouser. But beyond that it was, in terms those at Notre Dame might appreciate, a confirmation.
The Irish have one quarterback, and he is more worthy of optimism than skepticism. Now about everything else ...
"I think you guys can see it out there for yourselves," said Clausen, who completed 10-of-27 passes for 183 yards in the spring game. "Last year I wasn't real healthy coming off elbow surgery and being hurt throughout the season. I feel great right now. I feel 100 percent back to where I'm supposed to be."
The same cannot be said yet about Notre Dame after its 3-9 campaign in 2007, unless you are one of the overeager believers or are easily swayed by rhetoric accompanying 15 practices in April. Even Clausen's solid spring is no guarantee that those echoes won't hit the snooze button come September.
While the nation's No. 1 recruit of two years ago may look like the answer at quarterback, questions still linger about playmakers at receiver, about competency along the offensive line and about depth on the defensive line. Not to mention the effect of Weis handing play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Mike Haywood and sliding into a broader coaching role.
Basically, any confidence Notre Dame had by simply "Being Notre Dame" got pulverized into sawdust last fall. Thus Weis established regaining "swagger," as he put it, as a primary goal for the spring. Even he remains guardedly optimistic about the progress heading into the summer months.
"Right now, I would say the arrow is pointing up, but you have to see, when Aug. 7 and Aug. 8 roll around, how much carryover there is," Weis said. "If it stays level and continues to grow from there, then you have something special. If you start to see a leveling-out or a drop-off, then you wasted a lot of time and you're starting over again."
More College Football
College Football Truth & Rumors