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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

ND's Charlie Weis Wants This One - Evan Sharpley To Start v. USC - South Bend Tribune

With the season slipping away, it's clear Notre Dame Head Coach Charlie Weis wants a win. A victory against USC would all but salvage one of the worst seasons in Irish Football history.

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Sharpley to start at QB for Irish

South Bend Tribune Staff Writer

Saying that the junior gives his team the best chance to win this week, Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis on Tuesday said Evan Sharpley will start at quarterback this Saturday against No. 13-ranked USC.

The 6-foot-2, 216-pounder from Marshall, Mich., is coming off a performance against Boston College in which he completed 11 of 29 passes for 135 yards and a touchdown.

Jimmy Clausen, a true freshman who had started the previous six games, has struggled to make progress in recent weeks, and Weis felt that it was time he took both a physical and mental break for at least a game.

"I think there's a lot of people who have bumps and bruises," Weis said. "That's not the only reason for this decision. I think Evan this week gives us the best chance of winning."

Clausen has completed 81 of 131 passes this season for 618 yards and has played in all seven ND games. He has thrown one touchdown pass and five interceptions.

Clausen also has been hampered by various physical ailments. He underwent offseason surgery to remove a bone spur on his throwing elbow, and was removed in the second half of a loss to Purdue on Sept. 29 with what appeared to be a hip or back injury.

"He's not injured," Weis said. "Is he hurt? Yeah, he's hurt.

"This gives him an opportunity to sit back and watch the game. The game slows down for you when you're not in. It goes fast when you're in there."

Sharpley threw for 208 yards and a pair of touchdowns in relief of Clausen at Purdue.

Other notes of interest from Weis' press conference:

* Starting running back James Aldridge is "doubtful" against the Trojans with a high ankle sprain. Aldridge, who leads the Irish with 249 rushing yards this season, left during the first half of last week's loss.

Weis said he expects fifth-year senior Travis Thomas to get a lot of the playing time at that position. Thomas has 20 yards on 18 carries this season.

"I think we would go a little heaver with Travis in the mix," Weis said. "More than he has been this year."

* Weis said that wide receiver David Grimes, who has not played the last two weeks, and linebacker Maurice Crum, who was severely limited last week, have a better chance of playing this week.

"Both of them have a legitimate chance of playing this week," Weis said.

* Weis brushed off a question about whether he was concerned about the number of midseason exits from the program this season. Guard Matt Carufel's exit over the weekend was the third this season. Quarterback Demetrius Jones and tight end Konrad Reuland also have left, and current backup right tackle Chris Stewart returned home to Texas for a few days to ponder his Notre Dame future before returning to campus.

"I really can't worry too much about the guys that are leaving that aren't starting," Weis said.

* Previously injured former starting right guard Dan Wenger is available this week, but Eric Olsen will continue to start at that position.

* Weis on the green retro jerseys the Irish are wearing this week to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the 1977 national championship: "I think they're ugly. (The players) think they're cool. When I showed it to them, I thought it would be an emphatic no, (but) they couldn't have been any more fired up about it."

* On freshman linebackers Brian Smith and Kerry Neal: "They play this game with passion. When it's all said and done, by the time they leave here, they'll be household names."

Staff Writer Jeff Carroll


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