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Friday, April 9, 2010
Clausen's scheme advantage

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

In researching this week's post on Minnesota's dilemma at quarterback, I reached out to Steve Muench of Scouts Inc. Steve went over a number of the top draft prospects, and his evaluation of Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen was telling.

"Maybe his top attribute," Muench said, "is that he played in a pro-style offense."

It wasn't so much a shot as it was an acknowledgment that Clausen will enter the NFL with far more experience than some of his contemporaries in operating the type of scheme he must master before getting on the field. That background is becoming increasingly rare as more college teams move to a version of the spread offense.

At Notre Dame, Clausen played in a pseudo-West Coast scheme under former coach Charlie Weis. The Vikings are among many NFL teams that run a similar style.

Teams looking to get a first-round quarterback on the field within a year or two will without question take that background into consideration. Perhaps that's why Clausen's private throwing session, scheduled for Friday in South Bend, Ind., hasn't drawn the attention of some other high-profile quarterbacks. His game tape probably gives a much more accurate depiction of his NFL aptitude, one way or the other.

ESPN's Stats & Information put together some numbers that illustrate the dichotomy of Clausen's background compared to that of some other top prospects. In the chart to your right, you see Clausen's 2009 breakdown in throwing from the shotgun and when he lined up under center.

While more than half of his throws came from the shotgun, the figures are still much more balanced than those of Oklahoma's Sam Bradford, Texas' Colt McCoy and Florida's Tim Tebow. Here are the total number of passes each of those quarterbacks threw last season after lining up behind center, according to the same research:

McCoy: 12 (5-for-12, 27 yards)
Bradford: 1 (0-1)
Tebow: 1 (1-1, 16 yards)

It's not as if Bradford, McCoy and Tebow won't be able to make the adjustment to a more traditional dropback passing. But it is a different perspective and takes time to re-acquaint with after a college career in the spread system. That's why the focus of Clausen's throwing session will be to test his healing toe more than it will be to judge his ability to throw NFL-style passes.



Jimmy Clausen will work out for scouts at Notre Dame's pro day