Clausen lands with the Panthers as the 48th pick


The wait is over for Jimmy Clausen. The Carolina Panthers have selected Clausen at pick 48, ending the seemingly eternal wait for Clausen, who expected to go in the top fifteen picks of the draft.

Clausen lands with an NFL team that released its veteran starting quarterback in Jake Delhomme, and now battles Matt Moore for the starting quarterback job. Moore, another Southern California native, played his college football at Oregon State before signing as an undrafted free agent by the Dallas Cowboys in 2007. Moore was waived out of training camp and landed in Carolina, where he backed up Delhomme and David Carr the past three seasons. He won four of his five starts last season, putting up respectable numbers during his first extended playing time.

If you take away the disappointment of falling into the middle of the second round, this is an excellent place for Clausen to play quarterback. He’ll be supported by an excellent running attack, have a wide receiver in Steve Smith that can keep defenses honest as well as go deep, and has an offensive line that’s far from suspect. He’ll also have to beat out only Moore for the starting job, a journeyman quarterback in every sense of the word.

A few writers that have covered Clausen since he arrived in South Bend, John Walters at AOL FanHouse and Tim Prister of Irish Illustrated both took their shots explaining why Jimmy slid down the draft boards.

Both cited the image/attitude/arrogance issues that have plagued Clausen since he stepped foot in South Bend and brought up a few other interesting theories as well, including the role of Charlie Weis and the Clausen family entourage. But the best tidbit from the Jimmy Clausen draft experience comes courtesy of the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Hine, who spent four years writing for the Notre Dame Observer.

From Hine:

Thursday was the four-year anniversary of Jimmy Clausen and his
blinged-out news conference at the College Football Hall of Fame to
announce his oral commitment to the Irish. It was a day that fed into a
perception of immaturity and arrogance that stayed with Clausen during
his years in South Bend and clung to him as he went through the grind of
the NFL draft.

And that reputation may have contributed to what happened on Thursday
night, when Clausen was not picked in the first round of the draft.

Funny to think that one mistake four years ago to the day, a press conference that Charlie Weis merely shrugged off, simply calling it a “dog and pony show,” would haunt Clausen to this day. It’s also the perfect microcosm of the Weis era:

Brash with some undisputed offensive excellence, but ultimately short on final results.

Even amidst chaos, Kelly expecting USC’s best

JuJu Smith-Schuster, Rocky Hayes, Blaise Taylor

USC head coach Steve Sarkisian was fired on Monday, with interim head coach Clay Helton taking the reins of the Trojan program during tumultuous times. Helton will be the fourth different USC head coach to face Notre Dame in as many years, illustrative of the chaos that’s shaken up Heritage Hall in the years since Pete Carroll left for the NFL.

All eyes are on the SC program, with heat on athletic director Pat Haden and the ensuing media circus that only Los Angeles can provide. But Brian Kelly doesn’t expect anything but their best when USC boards a plane to take on the Irish in South Bend.

While the majority of Notre Dame’s focus will be inward this week, Kelly did take the time on Sunday and Monday to talk with his team about the changes atop the Trojan program, and how they’ll likely impact the battle for the Jeweled Shillelagh.

“We talked about there would be an interim coach, and what that means,” Kelly said. “Teams come together under those circumstances and they’re going to play their very best. And I just reminded them of that.”

While nobody on this Notre Dame roster has experienced a coaching change, they’ve seen their share of scrutiny. The Irish managed to spring an upset not many saw coming against LSU last year in the Music City Bowl after a humiliating defeat against the Trojans and amidst the chaos of a quarterbacking controversy. And just last week, we saw Charlie Strong’s team spring an upset against arch rival Oklahoma when just about everybody left the Longhorns for dead.

“I think you look at the way Texas responded this past weekend with a lot of media scrutiny,” Kelly said Tuesday. “I expect USC to respond the same way, so we’re going to have to play extremely well.”

Outside of the head coaching departure, it’s difficult to know if there’ll be any significant difference between a team lead by Sarkisian or the one that Helton will lead into battle. The offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach has been at USC for six years, and has already held the title of interim head coach when he led the Trojans to a 2013 Las Vegas Bowl title after Lane Kiffin was fired and Ed Orgeron left the program after he wasn’t given the full time position.

Helton will likely call plays, a role he partially handled even when Sarkisian was on the sideline. The defense will still be run by Justin Wilcox. And more importantly, the game plan will be executed by a group of players that are among the most talented in the country.

“They have some of the finest athletes in the country. I’ve recruited a lot of them, and they have an immense amount of pride for their program and personal pride,” Kelly said. “So they will come out with that here at Notre Dame, there is no question about that.”

Irish add commitment from CB Donte Vaughn

Donte Vaughn

Notre Dame’s recruiting class grew on Monday. And in adding 6-foot-3 Memphis cornerback Donte Vaughn, it grew considerably.

The Irish added another jumbo-sized skill player in Vaughn, beating out a slew of SEC offers for the intriguing cover man. Vaughn picked Notre Dame over offers from Auburn, LSU, Miami, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Texas A&M among others.

He made the announcement on Monday, his 18th birthday:

It remains to be seen if Vaughn can run like a true cornerback. But his length certainly gives him a skill-set that doesn’t currently exist on the Notre Dame roster.

Interestingly enough, Vaughn’s commitment comes a cycle after Brian VanGorder made news by going after out-of-profile coverman Shaun Crawford, immediately offering the 5-foot-9 cornerback after taking over for Bob Diaco, who passed because of Crawford’s size. An ACL injury cut short Crawford’s freshman season before it got started, but not before Crawford already proved he’ll be a valuable piece of the Irish secondary for years to come.

Vaughn is another freaky athlete in a class that already features British Columbia’s Chase Claypool. With a safety depth chart that’s likely turning over quite a bit in the next two seasons, Vaughn can clearly shift over if that’s needed, though Notre Dame adding length like Vaughn clearly points to some of the shifting trends after Richard Sherman went from an average wide receiver to one of the best cornerbacks in football, and Vaughn will be asked to play on the outside.

Vaughn is the 15th member of Notre Dame’s 2016 signing class. He is the fifth defensive back, joining safeties D.J. Morgan, Jalen Elliott and Spencer Perry along with cornerback Julian Love. The Irish project to take one more.

With Notre Dame expecting another huge recruiting weekend with USC coming to town, it’ll be very interesting to see how the Irish staff close out this recruiting class.