The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are looking to combat their failure in 2008 with a strong turnaround next season. As fans across the country look at the incoming recruiting class and the overload of young talent on the roster, there are several reasons to be hopeful.
However, the Irish will not see their potential unless their highly touted quarterback, Jimmy Clausen, steps up as a leader and begins producing at the level he's expected to. If he falls short, then head coach Charlie Weis needs to pull the plug and start backup QB Dayne Crist.
Crist potentially has more upside than Clausen, with a bigger frame and greater athleticism, but more importantly, he has displayed extraordinary leadership.
Jimmy Clausen's greatest football accomplishments were in high school, and his success has not yet translated into the college game. This should be a big sign to Irish fans, because under Charlie Weis, quarterbacks shine (Tom Brady, Brady Quinn), and if you cannot produce in his offense, you are going to struggle in this game.
Both Tom Brady and Brady Quinn were not superstars until Weis was able to shape them into record holders.
So what must happen to turn this team around and get them back into the BCS hunt? Jimmy Clausen has to be told, starting at the spring practice, that there is an open competition at quarterback.
Every position should be under that same assumption as well. If Clausen goes into 2009 unsure about his job security, it will force him to work harder, watch more film, study the playbook more intensively, and prove to himself and to his teammates that he is the starter because of his ability—and not because of his high school accolades.
Clausen has not yet had to earn his spot on the field because of a lack of strong competition in his way. Next year, with Crist off the redshirt list, that will not be the case.
If Clausen beats out Crist, by doing so, he will gain the respect of his teammates, which will hopefully lead to a spark in his future as a leader. He can no longer expect to be viewed as a leader on his team by just playing quarterback; he has to prove it.
In the end, what the Irish need out of their quarterback is not just touchdowns and high completion percentages but good decision-making and strong leadership. Clausen, thus far, has not proven to posses either of those necessities.
It was not a mistake that Crist came to Notre Dame after they had just recruited the No. 1 overall prospect, Jimmy Clausen, a year before. He knew he could compete for the position, and if the Irish want to live up to their potential, he must.