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Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024
The Observer

Healthy starter, healthy hits

Jimmy Clausen will likely start Saturday against UCLA, Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis said after practice Wednesday.

"I was really surprised that he moved almost completely normal [Tuesday]," Weis said. "But he definitely looked normal [Wednesday]."

Clausen injured his hip after taking a slew of shots from Purdue defenders, and junior Evan Sharpley played most of the second half Saturday. Clausen finished 18-of-26 for 169 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Sharpley was 16-of-26 for 208 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

Weis had said Clausen would start Saturday if he were healthy enough, and that appears to be the case. Still, Weis said, Sharpley earned more repetitions in practice with his play against Purdue. Sharpley took about 25 percent of the first-team practice snaps last week.

While Clausen has been recovering, the offense and defense have taken a more physical approach.

"The hardest we've hit ever in practice since I've been here was [Tuesday], for the longest we've gone," Weis said. "I'd say, physically, it was easily the best practice we've had since I've been here."

Weis said he informed the team before Tuesday's practice of his intention for this week's three practices.

"I told 'em, 'We're going to go full pads, we're going to hit like crazy for two-thirds of the practice. And [Wednesday], I'm going to have the shoulder pads on and go out with shorts and knee braces to taper it down. And we're going to taper it more down physically [Thursday]," Weis said.

The Irish had not tackled to the ground during practice until the week leading up to the Michigan State game, when they had fallen to 0-3 after a 38-0 loss at Michigan.

Weis said he derived the formula for this week's practices as a way to increase early-game productivity and energy. Opponents have outscored Notre Dame 47-14 in the first quarter and 101-21 in the first half this season.

"I'm really concerned about how we start the game," Weis said. "So I'm trying to find another method to start the game better."


u Weis insinuated that freshman Brandon Walker will take over the place-kicking responsibilities this week, after the team missed two extra point attempts and had a field goal blocked against Purdue.

In a live-hitting drill in front of reporters Tuesday, Walker made three of four field goal attempts, while walk-on kicker Nate Whitaker made only one of four.

"The one guy who missed one, he's probably going to be the guy who's going to be kicking," Weis said. "That's a pretty easy one."

u Wide receiver David Grimes and offensive lineman Dan Wenger will make the trip to UCLA. Grimes and Wenger are recovering from injuries, and both are questionable to see action Saturday. Weis said Wenger was more likely than Grimes to play.

u Notre Dame leaves for Los Angeles Friday and returns Saturday night. The Irish are scheduled to arrive back in South Bend at 6:30 a.m. Sunday.