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Football: Sharpley to start vs. SC

Chris Khorey | Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis announced Tuesday that junior Evan Sharpley will start against No. 9/13 USC on Saturday over freshman Jimmy Clausen, who had started the last five games under center for the Irish.

“Both Evan and Jimmy were told that yesterday afternoon after I had time to visit with our medical staff and our coaching staff, and that’s the way we’re going,” Weis said.

Weis said that while Clausen has been bothered by injuries, he is cleared to play on Saturday and will come off the bench if Sharpley gets hurt.

“That’s not the sole reason why we’re doing this,” Weis said. “I think Evan this week gives us the best chance of winning. And it’s the exact same thing I told both quarterbacks.”

Clausen had surgery on his elbow over the summer and was forced out of the 33-19 loss to Purdue Sept. 29 with an apparent injury to his hip or side.

“I think it’s a combination of one guy has been in there and [has been] banged around pretty good,” Weis said. “But I think that the separation between the two of them isn’t big enough for a banged-up guy getting a nod over a fresh guy, and that’s why we’re going in that direction.”

Weis said Clausen took the news well.

“He’s great,” Weis said. “The one thing good with the players, not that they like everything I say, but they know that I’m always going to tell them the truth, and I don’t have any tainted views, and I just explained to him very clearly that this gives us the best chance of winning this week, and that’s what we’re doing.”

Sharpley said the relationship between the quarterbacks won’t change.

“He’s going to support me, and I’m going to support him, whoever’s out there playing,” he said.

So far this season, Clausen has completed 57.4 percent of his passes for 618 yards with one touchdown and five interceptions. Sharpley has appeared in six games this season, completing 53.8 percent of his passes for 479 yards, with three touchdowns and two interceptions.

Sharpley has thrown the ball downfield more often than Clausen, a trend Weis attributed to him being in games after Notre Dame had fallen behind and had to come back.

“Usually when he gets in the game it’s been later in the game and we were losing,” Weis said. “Usually when you’re losing you try to throw the ball down the field more. That has a lot to do with it. When the game is close, you’re not necessarily throwing as many passes vertically down the field.”

Weis said Clausen’s development as a quarterback will continue from the sideline.

“I think this gives you an opportunity to stand back and watch the game,” he said. “The game slows down for you when you’re not in. The game happens really fast when you’re in there.”

The quarterback switch might not be permanent. Weis said he will continue to evaluate Sharpley and Clausen week to week.

“We’re just talking about USC,” he said. “That’s all we’re talking about. Evan Sharpley is the quarterback for USC. That’s all we’re talking about. How would I know if it’s permanent?”

Sharpley said he told his family right after Weis told him.

“I think they’re more excited than I am,” he said.

Sharpley will become Notre Dame’s fourth different starting quarterback this season. Since-departed sophomore Demetrius Jones started the opener against Georgia Tech, freshman running back Armando Allen took the first snap against Michigan and Clausen started the other five games this season.

The last time Notre Dame had three or more starting quarterbacks in a single season was 2000, when Matt LoVecchio, Gary Godsey and Arnaz Battle all started under center.


uWeis said running back James Aldridge is unlikely to play in Saturday’s game.

“He had a bit of a high ankle sprain, and he intends to play this week, but I’d say the odds of that happening aren’t real high,” Weis said.

uWeis said linebacker Maurice Crum and wide receiver David Grimes both have

a “legitimate chance” at playing this week. Grimes has not played since the Purdue game because of a leg injury and Crum missed most of the Boston College game with an injury to his foot.

uNotre Dame will wear throwback green jerseys on Saturday to commemorate its 1977 National Championship season. The Irish, under then-coach Dan Devine, wore green for the first time that season in a 49-19 win over USC, then kept the jerseys for the rest of the season.

The 2007 Irish will wear the same style uniform Saturday.

“These uniforms are ugly,” Weis said. “But what the players like about them is that they’re throwbacks. Remember what those jerseys looked like? Remember those ugly pants? That’s what they have to wear this week.”

Weis said the jerseys are not a motivational ploy.

“This is in respect to honor that ’77 team,” he said.