Quarterbacks preview: time to make the leap

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As a sophomore, quarterback Brady Quinn showed signs of greatness. According to his official bio, Quinn “produced the finest statistical sophomore season of any quarterback in Notre Dame history.”

His numbers in 2004:

12 games: 191-353, 54% accuracy, 2,586 yards, 17 TDs, 10 INTs.

For all the talk of Jimmy Clausen and his uneven play, here are the numbers from his sophomore season:

13 games: 268-440, 61% accuracy, 3,172 yards, 25 TDs, 17 INTs.

If Quinn’s sophomore season was the best in Notre Dame’s history, than Jimmy Clausen’s isn’t that far behind.

Jimmy Clausen will never be your average starting quarterback. He decided that years ago, when he decided to show up to his signing day announcement at the College Football Hall of Fame in a stretch Hummer limo and flash his high school championship rings.

But Clausen still has the ceiling to be the top-flight quarterback many believed he was. He may never live up to master promoter and QB coach Steve Clarkson’s proclamation that Clausen was the “LeBron James of high school football,” but he still very well could be the #1 pick in the NFL Draft.

Before you laugh, consider the following statistics. Clausen’s sophomore season was more impressive than Matthew Stafford’s, who ended up getting his name called first after his junior season, a season where his numbers made a significant improvement.

Now Clausen is expected to become the quarterback that many believed him to be. He’s in a perfect situation, backup Dayne Crist knows his role as the heir apparent, and third stringer Evan Sharpley is complacent running the scout team and getting his masters in coaching as a player-apprentice this season.

But in the end, it comes down to Clausen. Will he make the strides in his junior year that turned Brady Quinn into a Heisman candidate? Will he show the leadership and resolve that Quinn did when he turned Notre Dame’s offense into one of the most prolific in the country? Will he become the man under center, the guy that Weis can trust to check down the offense, to open up the voluminous playbook?

Notre Dame’s season goes as Jimmy Clausen goes. And just like the theme of the season, it’s finally time for us to see Jimmy Clausen do it, instead of just hearing how he will.