Spotlight: Jimmy Clausen
Also Returning: Evan Sharpley, Brian Castello
Lost: Nick Lezynski (position change - cornerback), Nate Montana (transfer)
Gained: Dayne Crist (DNP as freshman), Matthew Mulvey (walk-on)
It's a do-or-die year for the quarterback maker and his latest protege. Some consider Jimmy Clausen's performance against Hawaii the football version of a perfect game. But not every contest comes with a month to prepare and a poor pass defense. Clausen, despite popularity among his teammates, has yet to win over the Irish faithful. The Hawaii game may have started a turnaround, but those with longer memories recall a midseason slump by Clausen that was rash with poor decision making. (Hint: throwing the ball down the middle of the field and hoping Kyle Rudolph can outmuscle four defenders is not a good strategy.) Optimistic fans are quick to draw comparisons between the junior Clausen and Brady Quinn's breakout third season. If Clausen can repeat Quinn's success - and he has the weapons with which he can do it - fans will rally behind their blonde-haired hero and Robot Genius once again. If not, both Clausen and his head coach's time could be short in South Bend.
Evan Sharpley was drafted by the Seattle Mariners this past June, and has been tearing up the rookie leagues. Still, he was granted permission by the Mariners to return as a veteran backup to this year's Notre Dame squad. However, if all goes to plan - that is, if no one gets injured and Clausen doesn't give any reasons to be benched - Sharpley won't see any action until Senior Day. That's because Clausen's incumbent Dayne Crist is scheduled to get all the garbage minutes at quarterback. Hopefully, all of those minutes will be played with the Irish on the plus side of the scoreboard.