The junior-to-be quarterback on the Notre Dame football team will be decidedly vanilla in Saturday’s Blue-Gold Game at ND Stadium, the 15th and final practice of the spring session.
Clausen will likely be limited to running offensive plays that are so no-frills they’ll appear that they were lifted from 2007’s lost season. He won’t be allowed to be nudged by a defensive player unless it’s due to an unlikely and awkward congratulatory chest bump. And the player whose spring debut two years ago helped draw a record 51,852 for a 10-6 defense-fest won’t exactly have occasion to show off those improved leadership skills.
No, Saturday will belong to math majors and P.A. announcer Mike Collins. They are the only ones likely to be able to master the unpopular and unconventional scoring system to be used Saturday. A sampling: First downs are one point, explosive offensive plays are two, three-and-outs by the defense three, touchdowns six.
But there’s a catch. Touchdowns scored by the defense on a turnover are 10 points.
If you can get past the arithmetic, the running clock, the lack of kickoff returns and the fact most drives will start on the 35-yard line, there are reasons to care about Blue-Gold Game No. 80.
The six biggest reasons are as follows:
Paul Duncan, offensive tackle, fifth-year senior-to-be.
This will be most ND fans’ first look at Duncan since he struggled as a starter in 2007. He lost his job to Mike Turkovich in training camp of 2008 and then was sidelined for the season with an injury.
Once Saturday’s safety net is gone for Clausen in the fall, Duncan will be in charge of protecting the QB’s blind side and helping to jump-start a running game that’s been one of the nation’s least potent two years running.
The eyeball test says Duncan looks like he’s locked himself in the weight room. Saturday will give a better indication whether that’s simply a fancier chassis or if he really is able to handle athletic speed rushers.
Steve Filer, weakside linebacker, sophomore
The 6-foot-3, 236-pound Chicago product turned down scores of offers to play in the renowned Bookstore Basketball Tournament at ND, and he would have dominated. That’s how serious Filer is about dominating on the football field. To that end, he has only shown flashes so far, which is puzzling.
He is one of the best — if not the best — all-around athletes on the team. He’s uber-intelligent, hard-working, a teacher’s pet in the meeting room and driven.
“Steve just has to get past being able to do it all when the bullets are live,” said junior linebacker Brian Smith. “It’s going to happen. He’s too much of a freak for it not to. It’s just a matter of when.”
John Goodman, wide receiver, sophomore
The Jeff Samardzija wannabe is looking more like his role model every day, minus the untamed locks. He took advantage of absences by Golden Tate (baseball), Michael Floyd (injury) and Duval Kamara (injury) this spring to push toward a spot in the crowded receiver rotation in the fall.
The thing about Goodman is, he’s not deceptively fast. He’s simply fast — and getting faster and stronger seemingly each day.
He is also an option at quarterback should ND have an apocalyptic year at that position. The 6-3, 198-pounder from Fort Wayne has the strongest throwing arm on the team, and yes that includes Clausen. It’s unlikely ND coach Charlie Weis wants to unveil that for public consumption before fall, however.
Lingering questions were answered emphatically by the 2012 team, but 2013 is an all-new season that brings all-new question marks. Brian Kelly feels fairly confident his offense is in a great position to take a step forward, but to do that, they’ll need the services of some under-the-radar players.
Recap of biggest day of year for recruiting
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Building a bond
Jan. 22: Zeke Motta and Tyler Stockton spill the dirt as future roommates.
Jan. 22: Jake Golic talks to John Walters about being another Golic attending Notre Dame.
Beefing up the offensive line
Jan. 22: Notre Dame commit Chris Watt talks to John Walters about preparing for Irish football.
Next record breaker?
Jan. 22: Shaquelle Evans heads to Notre Dame and aims to break the freshman wide receiver record.