Irish QB Jimmy Clausen, WR Golden Tate turning pro
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP)
The next Notre Dame coach is going to have to try to turn around the program without two of the best players from a .500 team.
Quarterback Jimmy Clausen and his favorite receiver, Golden Tate, announced Monday they will bypass their senior seasons and enter the NFL draft. They shared the team's most valuable player award.
``I don't think we could have done more than we did this past year,'' Clausen said. ``Golden has played great. I've done my part. I think this is just the best time for us to go out.''
The announcements were made in the same room where athletic director Jack Swarbrick revealed the firing of coach Charlie Weis a week before. Weis made his first public appearance since he was let go, sitting between Clausen and Tate during a news conference at the school's football facility, but didn't take any questions. The only comment he made was to correct something Tate said.
About 70 Notre Dame players were in attendance. Afterward, they lined up and shook hands and hugged Weis and both players. Clausen teared up at the beginning when he announced his decision, while Tate did so after being congratulated by teammates. He said he knew it was time to go.
``With the year I had this year, it was kind of hard to stay. To be honest, I don't think I can do much better next year or any year, so I think the time is right,'' Tate said.
Weis said in a prepared statement released by the school that he thinks the players have a great chance to be successful in the NFL.
``They made big play after big play week after week this fall - and there's no question they are two of the best players in the nation at their respective positions,'' he said.
Clausen is widely expected to be taken in the first round. The only knocks on the 5-foot-11 Tate are a lack of size and experience at wideout. But Weis, a former offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots, said two weeks ago that Tate's speed will make up for any shortcomings.
Clausen, from Westlake Village, Calif., arrived at Notre Dame in 2007 as the school's most-hyped quarterback recruit since Ron Powlus in 1993. He leaves without taking the Fighting Irish to a single Bowl Championship Series game. The only bowl game the Irish went to in his three years as a starter was the Hawaii Bowl last season, a 49-21 victory over Hawaii that ended Notre Dame's NCAA-record bowl losing steak at nine.
He started 34 games for the Irish, posting a 16-18 record. He finished this season ranked second in the country in pass efficiency behind Boise State's Kellen Moore. Clausen was 289 of 425 passing for 3,722 yards and 28 touchdowns with four interceptions. He averaged 310 yards passing per game.
Clausen talked earlier this season about how he was motivated by the memory of his brother, Casey, not being drafted in 2004 after finishing his career at Tennessee.
``I'll never forget that day. That's one of the things that I've been working so hard for is to not have that ever happen to me,'' Clausen said.
Tate had 93 catches for 1,496 yards with 15 receiving TDs and two rushing TDs and a punt return for a score. He finished third in the nation in receiving yards per game (124.67) and seventh in catches per game (7.75).
Both players say they plan to pursue their degrees.
Clausen's departure leaves the Irish with one quarterback on scholarship, Dayne Crist, who is recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee sustained Oct. 31 against Washington State. It is not clear whether he will be ready to play when Notre Dame begins spring workouts. He attended the news conference Monday and was walking without a limp.
``I just told him to get healthy as fast as he can and get these guys going,'' Clausen said.
Two high school quarterbacks have announced they plan to attend Notre Dame next season.