At the Nike 7 on 7 Passing Championship run by Student Sports last Friday, the event featured not only the top three senior quarterbacks in California, Garrett Green (Notre Dame), Tyler Lyon (Hart) and Michael Herrick (Valencia) but arguably the nation's top signal caller in Springdale's (Ark.) Mitch Mustain as well. With all that talent, it was actually a rising junior that stole the show and had everyone talking following the tournament.
Newhall (Calif.) Hart, led by Lyon, won the tournament but if you could pick one player from any of the teams competing to start a team, that player would have been Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian's Jimmy Clausen. Simply put, Clausen is a phenom and one of the most gifted quarterbacks we've ever seen. Following the tournament, we must have been asked by over a dozen reporters or fans in attendance about Clausen, many saying they have never seen a quarterback throw the ball like he did.
The 6-3, 200 pound athlete makes throws right now that very few college quarterbacks could make. It's not just his incredible arm strength, accuracy and ability to discern when to put touch versus heat on a pass, it's his timing and ability to quickly make his reads that puts him at a different level.
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"Some of the throws he's making right now, I couldn't do that until my junior year at Tennessee," Clausen's older brother Casey, who played for the Vols and was on hand to watch his brother, said. "He's so much further along than any of us and we've just been working on him from mental standpoint. Making the right reads, moving a safety around, things like that."
Clausen appeared in Sports Illustrated in 8th grade and has been called by his quarterback coach Steve Clarkson, one of the nation's top QB tutors, 'the Lebron James of football.' With all the hype he has received, you would think it would be tough for Clausen to meet those expectations but every time we've seen him perform the last couple of years, be it in pads or in a passing league event, he has more than justified the hype.
Simply stated, Clausen is as gifted a pure passer as we've ever seen. His mechanics are flawless, his release is incredibly quick and then his ability to make any throw and throw it well before the receiver makes his break and his overall accuracy is off the charts. Whereas every other quarterback in the tournament with the exception of Herrick, had a tendency to lock in on his primary receiver, Clausen was at another level in his ability to find his second, third or even fourth receiver.
In the last year, one thing we noticed is Clausen has changed his ball placement a bit and now holds the ball up by his ear (picture former Cal QB Aaron Rodgers) rather than next to his shoulder like most quarterbacks.
"Yeah, he just started doing that but he really likes it," Casey said. "He did that on his own because it's not something Steve teaches us. He said he feels it makes his release quicker and it's more comfortable for him to hold the ball that high. He also said it has made him more consistent, having the same release point every time."
From a recruiting standpoint, Clausen already has offers in the double figures but it's not something he's too worried about right now.
"I'm still just a junior so I have a lot of time to think about that," Clausen said. "USC just offered me and that was cool but I'm open to everyone right now. I'm just looking for a school that loves to throw the ball and has an offense that I'll be comfortable in. I'm going to take my trips though and I'm also on track to graduate a semester early if I want to. I haven't made that decision yet but I'll be able to do that if I want to in order to enroll in time for spring practice at whatever school I choose. "