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Being Jimmy Clausen: How Notre Dame's QB Can Make or Break Their Season

Erin McLaughlinSenior Analyst IIJuly 26, 2009

SOUTH BEND,IN - SEPTEMBER 13:  Quarterback Jimmy Clausen #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish looks down the field during the game against the Michigan Wolverines on September 13, 2008 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

This is the last in a series of articles that breaks down different players and positions for the Fighting Irish for the upcoming season.

Training camp is just around the corner, and it is almost time to focus on the team as a whole. I have looked at the defense, offensive line, receivers, tight ends, and different running backs.

Now it is time to look at the one guy who can bring it all together: junior quarterback Jimmy Clausen.

When Clausen first arrived in South Bend, Irish fans were excited but knew he had some big shoes to fill. The other thing is that Clausen is really different from other quarterbacks that have gone through this system.

This Patriot system takes a certain kind of quarterback and makes him into a superstar. It is generally a low-profile guy that manages the game well and won't kill you with turnovers.

Tom Brady was that way when he first took over. He wasn't expected to be a superstar. The same thing happened with Matt Cassel. Kyle Orton will be interesting to see.

In South Bend, Brady Quinn wasn't a huge recruit out of high school, nor did many Irish fans expect him to be one of the all-time greats at Notre Dame after his sophomore year.

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Yet Charlie Weis took this kid who managed the game well and made him great. That is how the Patriot system works.

Clausen, unlike Brady, Cassel, Quinn, and Orton, really doesn't fit that mold at all. His entrance at South Bend was anything but low profile.

He is certainly not a "manage the game well and not make mistakes" quarterback. He really is more of the gunslinger mindset.

It will be interesting to see if Weis and the other coaches can do things differently. Normally, they take a kid who can already manage the game and teach him how to make plays.

Now, he has to take a guy who is a playmaker by nature and teach him how to manage the game well.

All signs do indicate that Clausen is now learning to make better decisions rather than just force the ball into coverage. He is learning that in high school everybody is open and he can just hit anybody at any time, but it doesn't work that way in college.

Clausen has also learned what it is like to be the quarterback at Notre Dame. This is a school that has produced guys like Paul Hornung and NFL greats Joe Montana and Joe Theismann. Guys like Steve Beuerlein, Terry Hanratty, and even Rick Mirer had their moments in the NFL.

On top of all that, Clausen's immediate predecessor was Brady Quinn. Quinn holds most school passing records over all those guys. Therefore, the pressures of being Jimmy Clausen are quite intense indeed.

I am optimistic that in spite of the obstacles of both being of a different mold that has worked in this system and the pressures that come with the history of being the quarterback at Notre Dame, Clausen will have a breakout year in 2009.

Much of Clausen's success will be determined by both the guys in front of him and the guys around him. If they all do their jobs, Clausen will do his.

I just hope that Irish fans do give him their support and aren't chanting for Dayne Crist the first time Clausen throws an interception.

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