Jimmy Clausen, QB, 2007 – 2009
I told you this was a quarterback-heavy list. Jimmy Clausen was one of the most highly anticipated recruits in years — having going as far as committing at the College Football Hall of Fame (previously located in South Bend) and promising multiple national championships during his time in South Bend. Unfortunately, none of those championships happened — but he still had a solid career worth putting on this list.
Clausen had a rough start to his Irish career, finishing his freshman season with 1,254 passing yards, 7 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions — and he was also sacked a school record 34 times. He would turn it around over the course of the next two seasons, however, leading the Irish to a 49-21 victory over Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl — snapping the embarrassing NCAA record of nine straight bowl losses.
When it was all said and done, Clausen finished his career with 8,148 yards, 60 touchdowns, 27 interceptions and a 62.7% completion percentage. He put together his strongest season as a junior, setting career highs in passing yards (3,722), touchdowns (28), completion percentage (68%), and passer rating (161.4) — all while throwing a career-low four interceptions.
Clausen is currently 2nd on Notre Dame’s all-time career passing yards list, 2nd in passing yards in a single season, 3rd in passing touchdowns in a career, and 4th in passing touchdowns in a season.
Clausen certainly had a wild personality and was a little cocky, but I liked it. He wasn’t the most decorated Irish quarterback ever — and he never found success in the NFL — but his persona combined with being the signal caller during the tail-end of the awful Weis era means he will always be remembered. He deserves a spot on this list.