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Clausen, Tate to enter 2010 NFL Draft

Matt Gamber | Monday, December 7, 2009

A week after firing head coach Charlie Weis, Notre Dame lost its top two offensive players when junior quarterback Jimmy Clausen and junior wide receiver Golden Tate announced Monday they would both skip their senior seasons and enter the NFL Draft.

“Growing up as a kid, one of my lifelong dreams has been to play in the NFL and with that being said, with the support of my family and coaches I will be forgoing my senior year and entering the 2010 NFL Draft,” Clausen said in a press release distributed before the press conference.

Clausen finished his junior season with 3,722 yards and 28 touchdowns passing, which rank second and third, respectively, for a single-season in school history. He threw touchdown passes in all 12 Irish games and eclipsed 300 yards passing seven times in 2009, while throwing only four interceptions and posting a passing efficiency rating of 161.42, second-best in the country.

Tate claimed several school records during his illustrious junior campaign. His 93 receptions and 1,496 receiving yards are both single-season records, and his 2,707 career receiving yards are also an Irish record.

Tate’s 15 receiving touchdowns this season tied a school record. He posted 1,915 all-purpose yards and 18 total touchdowns in 2009, both the second-best totals in school history. And Tate’s nine 100-yard receiving games this season and 15 in his career are both school records.

“This was a very tough decision for me,” Tate said in the release. “I have made so many great friends at Notre Dame and the coaching I received in football and baseball has been the best. But after talking with my family and Coach Weis, I am going to pursue my dream and enter next year’s NFL Draft.”

Clausen’s greatest improvement from 2008 to 2009 was his ability to cut down on turnovers. As a sophomore, Clausen started all 13 Irish games and threw for 3,172 yards and 25 touchdowns but 17 interceptions. As a freshman on the 3-9 2007 squad, Clausen started nine games and threw for 1,254 yards, seven touchdowns and six interceptions.

“The Notre Dame experience has been a positive one and the highlight of my young career and I wouldn’t change it for anything,” Clausen said in the release. “I am excited for the future of the program and wish all my teammates and the new coaching staff the best of luck in upcoming seasons.”

The 22-year-old Clausen could likely be the top quarterback chosen in April’s NFL Draft, which could make him one of the top picks. According to ESPN.com, scouts have dubbed Clausen the most NFL-ready quarterback in this year’s class because he played in a pro-style offense with the Irish in which he thrived despite an inconsistent offensive line and his team’s struggles.

The nation’s top high school recruit three years ago out of Westlake Village, Calif., Clausen chose Notre Dame over rival USC because of Weis’ experience developing NFL quarterbacks in both New England (Patriots star Tom Brady) and at Notre Dame (Brady Quinn, now of the Cleveland Browns).

“Notre Dame has the best fans in the country,” Clausen said in the release. “I will always be a Golden Domer for life.”

Tate arrived at Notre Dame from Hendersonville, Tenn., where he was a high school tailback Weis converted to receiver to give the Irish a legitimate deep threat in the passing game. Tate enjoyed a breakout game against Purdue as a freshman, catching three passes for 104 yards and a touchdown. But he would total just six receptions for 131 yards the entire season before making a remarkable jump after his freshman year.

As a sophomore, Tate hauled in 58 passes for 1,080 yards and 10 touchdowns, emerging as a more polished receiver as he gained more experience at the position.

“I can’t begin to describe how grateful I am to Coach Weis and Coach Ianello and the rest of the football coaching staff,” Tate said in the release.