A year ago, almost to the day, we wrote an article (July 18, 2005) about Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian quarterback Jimmy Clausen following the NIKE 7 on 7 Passing Championship. In the article we talked about Clausen's performance at the event and how it was possible that as a junior, he might already be the top quarterback in the nation. After seeing Clausen up close and personal once again, we thought it might be good to dispel some of the rumors we've seen floating around the 'net' over the past year or so.
For some reason, and I'm not sure why, Clausen has become one of the most attacked high school athletes in recent memory. Now we know part of it could be because of the press conference and the way he announced his college choice. Now I'm not saying his announcement wasn't a little too over the top but even before then, we've heard everything from, 'he's overrated, all hype, a bad kid, not as big as he's listed, already peaked and won't get any better, etc, etc.'
First off, anyone who has ever seen Clausen play in person and would still say he's all hype knows nothing about football. The kid is so talented and showed that again this past Friday. Oaks rolled over Long Beach Poly, Culver City and Edison, Huntington Beach to win the NIKE event with two of the three coaches telling us afterward that Clausen was the best high school quarterback they had ever seen.
First off, lets dispel a few myths regarding Clausen starting with his size. He's all of 6-3 and a rock solid 200 pounds. The signal caller has obviously spent a lot of time in the weight room and has really built himself over the last year. His arm strength, which was already college level, has improved and when combined with his quick release and accuracy, you're looking at a guy who physically, has college tools right now.
Another thing we've read multiple times, which makes zero sense to us, is the argument that because Clausen has been held back a year and his mechanics and throwing motion are already so fine tuned, he's peaked right now and doesn't have room to get any better in college. Since when has a player not even in his 20s in any sport already peaked?
There are players in the NFL right now who have said they're still getting better as they learn and understand the game as well as take better care of their bodies and improve themselves physically. As good as he is now, in three years, Clausen will be a much different player, physically, mentally and in his understanding of the game. He's completely different now than he was a year ago and we still see plenty of room for growth between now and when Clausen finishes up his college career.
When you're on top, it seems everyone loves to take their shots at you but as a quarterback, the difference between Clausen and the rest of this year's class is night and day. We've worked out every top quarterback in the nation this year and have liked several of them including guys like Willy Korn, Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Mallett and John Brantley. Mallett has a stronger arm, Taylor and Korn are more athletic but as a pure quarterback, Clausen is on a completely different level.
His drops, release, accuracy and ability to read the field and make a quick decision are as good as anyone we've seen. In three full games against very good competition, Clausen didn't throw a single pick and really didn't throw one ball where you could say, 'that was a bad decision.' He spins it every time, knows when to put heat on a pass or take some off and the timing on his throws, hitting his receivers well before they're out of their breaks is again, off the charts.
As for the bad kid or pimma donna label, we've known Clausen since he was a 7th grader and have never seen that. His receivers and running backs dropped several balls throughout the day and not once did we see him chew a player out or do anything other than smack the player on the butt and say, 'next time.' It also has to me mentioned how Clausen plays and performs under about as much pressure as a HS kid could ever have and still delivers time and again.
Clausen told us in the past that he knows he basically has to be perfect, not just every game, but every quarter, because he's aware that there are a lot of people out there who go to see him play, maybe for the first time, just hoping to see him fail or not have a great game so they can rush home and trash him on some message board. He was labeled, 'the next big thing,' before even throwing a HS pass and despite all the pressure around him, in the games we've seen him, in pads and without, over the last three years, he has stepped up and performed in a big way every single time.
Now we're not going to do anything foolish like predict multiple Heisman Trophies for Clausen or anything close to that. We can say he's arguably the most ready for college quarterback we've seen in a long time and barring an injury, has a very good chance to be a special player sooner rather than later when he hits the field at Notre Dame.