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Weekend primer: Notes before UW

Oct 2, 2009, 3:00 PM EDT

I’ve got a collection of links I’ve been storing this week, trying to find a place to fit them in or write them up, but they just never came together. Consider this force-feeding:

* A few days ago, Mike Baldwin of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer wrote a post comparing the paths of Jake Locker and Jimmy Clausen. On the surface, this makes some sense, but looking a little bit deeper, I really don’t think the comparisons are all that apt. Here’s a bit from Mike:

Both came in as highly-regarded recruits, choosing once-proud
football schools that had recently fallen on hard times. Both were
thrown into starting roles as freshman (Locker as a red-shirt, Clausen
as a true). And both have been through career ups-and-downs, but have
emerged as potential saviors and future NFL-prospects while playing for
resurgent programs headlined by high-profile coaches.

Clausen’s path has the added bonus of not being interrupted by
injury like Locker’s has. And Clausen has also been able to play on
teams that, while underachieving, have not hit rock bottom.

But the biggest similarity the two have is that both were met with
instant pressure and have glided through the process with class. The
only thing UW fans love more about Locker’s play on the field is the
person he appears to be off it. And while Clausen slipped early on,
getting charged with transporting alcohol as a freshman, he has emerged
as a solid leader and human being.

Let’s start with recruiting. Locker was indeed highly touted, but nowhere near to the extent of Clausen. I’ve never been a huge star-tracker, but while Locker’s offer list and pedigree was impressive, it didn’t match up with Jimmy’s. Another pet peeve is comparing true and redshirt freshman. There is no comparison here, having a year to sit out and watch is a tremendous advantage.

I’d also quibble with Baldwin’s definition of rock bottom. 3-9 is rock bottom for a school like Notre Dame. No offense to the proud Husky program and it’s 0-for-season, but 3-9 at a place like ND puts a lot more spotlights on South Bend than a winless season in Seattle.

Baldwin took a good angle and one that I’m sure will be popular as the weekend commences. It’s just one that I don’t think quite fits. 

* Bob Condotta profiles five Huskies to watch on Saturday. Among the usual suspects, Condotta profiles Cort Dennison, a backup weakside linebacker who will start his first game in place of injured linebacker E.J. Savannah. 

Dennison, who grew up an Irish fan and attended a Catholic high school, will be a man under fire on Saturday, as he’ll be filling in and expected to stop the Irish running attack. Dennison made 8 tackles last week against Stanford, playing the entire second half after Savannah went out.

* Good friend Bruce Feldman of ESPN.com answered the rantings of an angry Irish fan this morning in his weekly mailbag on his excellent blog. The gist of the question was “Why does the national media love quarterbacks like Tate Forcier (and Tim Tebow) yet barely mention the exemplary play of Irish QB Jimmy Clausen? Here was Bruce’s response:

The short answer? Win a big game. Then I think you’ll see Clausen
in the Heisman mix. I wasn’t counting sentences Saturday night when I
wrote that. One guy was playing against Indiana. The other against
Purdue. Neither opponent is exactly Oklahoma or Florida. Much of my
reaction to Forcier stems from the fact that this is a true freshman
leading this team.

As far Clausen goes, I’ve pointed
out in the blog this month on several occasions how impressed I’ve been
with his performance this season — but to get to the next level, the
burden of proof is on this team to get back into the top 15. Not
winning at Michigan, against a team relying on a true freshman QB (the
same one referenced above), hurts ND’s cause. As it relates to the
Heisman, it hurts Clausen. Now, in fairness to Clausen, the Irish D
hasn’t helped him much, but I think if he is going to win the Heisman
this year, it’s going to require almost a perfect storm scenario:
first, he needs to keep his level of play high and the Irish need to
win out. Big stats didn’t get Graham Harrell to New York for the awards
ceremony and I doubt it would for Clausen either. I suspect he’s also
going to need both Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow to slip and lose some games.


If McCoy and UT win the Big 12, I don’t see Clausen being able to
overtake him. Clausen’s TD-INT ratio right now is better than McCoy’s:
10-1 vs. 9-5. McCoy’s completion percentage is higher: 71 percent vs.
66 percent. McCoy is also the better runner.

Feldman’s short answer is certainly full of good points and I have a feeling the long answer might include the media infatuation with Clausen during his collegiate infancy. While I would also agree that Clausen isn’t getting his just due, if the Irish keep winning they’ll get plenty of media coverage, with a very large spotlight shining on October 17th. If Clausen keeps up his habit of throwing touchdowns and avoiding interceptions, he’ll be sitting in New York next to Tebow and McCoy, with a new suit and hopefully less hair-product than his introduction to the college football world. 

* Finally, in a game that shares the common thread of former head coach Ty Willingham, this interview has been making the rounds the past few days. Ty was back at his alma mater, Michigan State, and spoke about his life after football.

A lot of easy jokes have come to mind, but I’ve got no bone to pick with Willingham. Having talked to a lot of his former players, every one of them had good things to say about the man and the coach. While he didn’t achieve what people wanted him to do, it’s long past time for Notre Dame fans to bury the ax and let the man go.

  1. robertg - Oct 2, 2009 at 3:41 PM

    keith,
    thank you for the information.
    it is always good to see and hear tyrone willingham, who will always be the fine gentleman that he always has been.
    tyrone was subjected to vicious personal attacks while he was at notre dame by eric hansen and his hansenite allies for problems with notre dame’s football program which had been created by lazy bob davie’s letting notre dame’s recruiting network die on the vine.
    the naieve people at notre dame who then made hiring and firing decisions about notre dame football hired tyrone because of his success at stanford and because of tyrone fine character.
    the hansenites and notre dame’s enemies who pay them viewed the tyrone situation as an opportunity to kill off notre dame’s football program and the hansenites came much closer to succeeding at doing exactly that than all but a very few notre dame fans will ever know.
    charlie and his staff and notre dame’s student athletes have already absorbed the most vicious attacks that the hansenites could think have and notre dame football and recruiting are back at full strength for the forseeable future, with eric hansen and the other hansenites desperately looking for new jobs in los angeles, courtesy of usc, while they continue to put their con artist information about charlie’s job security online at the sbt and at other cooperating news outlets, such as the espn.
    all decisions about notre dame football are now made by notre dame graduates who have had great success in football at notre dame and in the nfl and in life and know the hansenites as the con artists that they are and always have been.

  2. robertg - Oct 2, 2009 at 4:01 PM

    keith,
    ever since certain usc alums, with a lot of assistance from certain people at the espn and other news outlets and voters for the heisman and other awards on the usc payroll, purchased the heisman for carson palmer, the heisman has been a complete fraud.
    despite outstading stats, brady quinn was never even invited to new york in 2005 or 2006.
    feldman is just lying, as he and ivan maisel and others at the espn have been for many years.
    the fact is that, until the corruption is flushed out of the heisman committee and voting process, not notre dame student athlete will ever get and serious consideration for the heisman or for many other college football awards,
    cleaning the corruption out of the heisman and other award systems has to take second place right now to taking wrecking balls to the current conference and ncaa ref, tech review, and rules enforcement systems.
    getting angry about the corruption in the heisman and other award processes simply will not do any more good than speaking with jerks like feldman of the espn who are in on those cons.
    getting even in the heisman and other areas will be a lot of fun, but has to take second place for us right now.
    GO IRISH!!

  3. Coley - Oct 2, 2009 at 6:05 PM

    Coach Willingham,
    Is simply one of the nicest and impressive true gentleman, I ever had the fortune to come across. His work at Notre Dame for not only his football atheletes, yet for the hockey players (myself), track, girls soccer, ect- and every student on campus. He was always willing to answer a question, give encouragment and lead by example of class.
    Always, Notre Dame.
    Coley

  4. Ron LaCroix - Oct 3, 2009 at 12:26 PM

    Clausen vs Locker
    Yes, you’re right. How could anyone compare the two?! Clausen played for a private rich boy’s school in media-covered Southern California and was rated #1 qb prospect in the country, whereas Locker played for some small town in the corner of Washington state and was rated #5 qb prospect. What nerve!
    And comparing Clausen starting as a true freshman to Locker’s starting as a redshirt freshman! What a joke! You’d think that Clausen played for a pedigree HS program and was used to such good competition!
    Rock bottom! Tsk, tsk. How could anyone compare Notre Dame with Washington? Let’s not insult our Irish with such nonsense – I don’t care if both teams’ fans considered the programs at rock bottom. This writer insults us with every sentence!

  5. Clarence Delilla - Feb 1, 2010 at 10:42 PM

    Of course, what a great site and informative posts, I will add backlink – bookmark this site? Regards, Reader.

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