Notre Dame to reveal it's QB secret in opener against Georgia Tech

Updated: August 31, 2007, 3:10 PM ET
Associated Press

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- One quarterback or two? And if one, which one?

Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis isn't sure how many quarterbacks he'll use when the Fighting Irish will face Georgia Tech on Saturday -- or how many his defense will face.

After a three-way competition to replace Brady Quinn, Weis finally settled on a starter two weeks ago. Weis doesn't want his choice to be looking over his shoulder when he makes a mistake while acknowledging that the competition was close.

"Is one guy going to be there forever? Maybe," Weis said. "You're asking could two guys play this week? The answer to that is also maybe. The thing is I don't know the answers to all the questions at this point."

There are plenty of questions for both teams in the season-opener Saturday: What will the Irish offense look like? How will the Tech offense look under new offensive coordinator John Bond with quarterback Taylor Bennett? Will the Notre Dame defense, which has struggled mightily the past two seasons, play any better after switching from a 4-3 scheme to a 3-4 under new coordinator Corwin Brown?

Weis won't disclose the answer to the biggest question: Is Demetrius Jones, Evan Sharpley or Jimmy Clausen the starter? He wants to keep the Yellow Jackets guessing.

It appears to have worked. Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey says his team prepared to face two different offensive styles.

"When Jones is in there, you may end up with the option/quarterback run sprint-out game, whereas when the other two are in there you will end up with the traditional Charlie Weis offense. So I think that's been difficult for our defense to try to prepare for both of those types of offenses they may face," Gailey said. "I can't tell you the percentage of what it's going to be of each one. Not even sure they know."

He's right. Weis isn't sure either. It all depends on how things go. But keeping Tech guessing wasn't the only reason Weis remained silent. He also was trying to keep the pressure off Quinn's successor.

"Why would you want to anoint someone a few weeks ago and have them be living under a microscope of being the Notre Dame quarterback before they've ever even played a down?" he said.

Instead all three were swarmed by the media each time they were made available. Jones seemed the most at ease, but acknowledged the pressure the new quarterback will face.

"Everybody knows how prestigious the Notre Dame quarterback is. There's one thing everybody in the country is going to know, they're going to know who the president of the United States is and they're going to know who the quarterback of Notre Dame is," he said.

Weis also is hoping to take some pressure off the quarterback by using five backs to try to improve on the worst rushing season in school history, when the Irish averaged just 126 yards a game. He'll also try to come up with some tricks to slow down Tech's blitzing defense.

"You never know what to expect," Tech safety Jamal Lewis said. "He throws everything in world at you. Just never know what he's going to do."

The Yellow Jackets will be looking for some answers of their own.

Some Tech fans questioned how good Bennett could be if he was stuck playing for three seasons behind Reggie Ball, a frustratingly inconsistent quarterback. But Bennett played well against West Virginia in the Gator Bowl last season when Ball was ruled academically ineligible, completing 19 of 29 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns.

"I believe he's going to play well, but I don't know. Isn't that what makes the game great?" Gailey said.

While Weis was busy trying to keep Georgia Tech off balance, he also had the Irish preparing for freshman quarterback Josh Nesbitt just in case the Yellow Jackets try a mobile quarterback of their own.

"It wouldn't shock me to see him in the game in some kind of package where they spread it out, had him involved in something," Weis said.

Gailey said all the unknowns will make for an interesting start to the season.

"The first quarter of this game is going to be a little bit of a dancing match rather than a hitting match. Going to be seeing who's going to do what," Gailey said. "Once we feel each other out, then I think everybody will settle into the game."

And start answering questions.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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