Third in prized Clausen clan to verbally commit to Irish

Updated: April 21, 2006, 7:04 PM ET
By Tom Friend | ESPN The Magazine

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Jimmy Clausen, the most acclaimed California prep quarterback since John Elway, will verbally commit to Notre Dame on Saturday.

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Even after a top-five 2006 recruiting class, Jimmy Clausen's commitment is the biggest piece of the puzzle as to the future success of Charlie Weis at Notre Dame.

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Clausen's decision was first reported by ESPN college football analyst Lou Holtz. Clausen, a high school senior-to-be, will make his announcement at 8:30 a.m. local time at the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend.

According to sources, Clausen chose the Irish over USC so he could be mentored by coach Charlie Weis; he is now the front-runner to replace the graduating Brady Quinn as Notre Dame's starter in 2007.

Clausen, 6-foot-3 and 207 pounds, has thrown 88 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions in his past two seasons at Oaks Christian School in Westlake Village, Calif., his team averaging 53 points a game. He is 27-0 as a starter, has completed 68 percent of his passes over the last two years, has thrown for 7,234 career yards and will have one of his high school games televised live next September on ESPN2.

Jimmy Clausen
Matt McClain/Ventura County StarAhead of the game: Jimmy Clausen will enroll at Notre Dame in January and be eligible for next year's spring practices.

He is the younger brother of recent Tennessee quarterbacks Casey and Rick Clausen, although both brothers say Jimmy is more accurate, more unflappable and more polished a player.

"He's better than both of us right now," Rick Clausen has said.

Weis, the former Patriots offensive coordinator, first saw film of Clausen last summer, as a sophomore, and quickly made him his No. 1 recruiting priority. Weis went on to sign two quarterbacks from the Class of 2006 -- Zach Frazer of Pennsylvania and Demetrius Jones of Chicago --- but turned down a chance to sign the class's No. 1 QB prospect, Arkansas' Mitch Mustain.

Clausen, who has a 3.3 GPA and has taken courses at Ventura (Calif.) Junior College so he can graduate high school early, will enroll at Notre Dame in January and be eligible for next year's spring practices. He is currently working out with a strength coach four days a week, has put on 20 pounds over the last four months and is committing early to the Irish so he can lure other premier recruits to South Bend.

Two of the top wide-outs from the class of 2007, Arrelious Benn of Washington's Dunbar High and 6-foot-5 Duval Kamara of Hoboken, N.J., are expected to be on the Notre Dame campus when Clausen commits, and sources say Clausen will ask them to join him. Also on hand Saturday, for Notre Dame's annual spring game, will be Clausen's high school teammate, Marc Tyler, who gained 2,196 yards and scored 39 touchdowns last season. Tyler is the son of former Rams running back Wendell Tyler.

USC had been high on Clausen's list because of its overall talent level, and Clausen, at one time, was concerned whether Weis could recruit similar athletes to Notre Dame. But the Irish's Class of 2006 included two mammoth offensive linemen -- 6-foot-8, 305-pound Sam Young of Fort Lauderdale and 6-foot-5, 360-pound Chris Stewart of Klein, Texas. Those recruiting coups, plus Weis's NFL pedigree, helped win him over.

Clausen visited with USC coach Pete Carroll as recently as Wednesday, but Clausen, according to people close to him, had already made up his mind to go to South Bend.

Tom Friend is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine.