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Latest Clausen Has Arm Up on Future

Times Staff Writer

From the time he was 12, serving as a ball boy for his brother’s high school football team, Jimmy Clausen has known how to dazzle onlookers with his throwing ability.

“I was sitting in the stands,” recalled Steve Clarkson, a private quarterback coach. “The ball happened to fly over to where Jimmy was. He picked up the football and launched it across the field. I said, ‘Who the heck is that?’ ”

Clarkson soon became Clausen’s tutor, as he was for brothers Casey and Rick. Except Jimmy, a junior at Westlake Village Oaks Christian, has already become No. 1 in the family hierarchy.

Before Jimmy’s freshman season, Clarkson said, “If there were a LeBron James in football, it would be Jimmy Clausen.”

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Some questioned whether Clarkson had raised expectations to an unreachable level with his hype.

“The thing is, if I wasn’t accurate, I would be an idiot,” he said.

As it turns out, Clausen is living up to those expectations. He passed for 58 touchdowns as a sophomore while completing 69% of his passes in leading Oaks Christian to a 14-0 record and a Southern Section Division XI championship.

Entering his junior season, he has scholarship offers from USC and South Carolina and is considered by many experts to be the top quarterback in the nation at any grade level.

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Longtime NFL agent Gary Wichard, who represents Casey Clausen, watched Jimmy at a summer passing tournament and was awed by his skills.

“This cat is in another league,” he said.

Dean Herrington, who coached Baltimore Raven quarterback Kyle Boller at Newhall Hart, said of Clausen, “He’s the best pure passer I’ve seen in high school football.”

Even the 23-year-old Casey, who was a four-year starter at Tennessee and is now a graduate assistant at Mississippi State, said Jimmy is far more advanced than most.

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“Physically, he’s a lot better than I ever was,” Casey said. “He makes things look so easy. The stage he’s at is where I was as a freshman or sophomore in college.”

Clausen, 6 feet 3 and 200 pounds, was the talk of summer passing competitions because of his quick release and precision throws. He has changed the way he holds the ball, placing it by his ear, similar to former California quarterback Aaron Rodgers, making his release quicker.

“It’s hard for other people to do because the normal way to throw is to hold it [next to] their chest,” he said.

Clausen will turn 18 on Sept. 21, a reminder that he repeated the sixth grade and is older than most in his junior class. He said he had no regrets about his parents’ decision.

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“Looking back, repeating sixth grade was probably one of the best things that happened to me in my life, physically and mentally,” he said. “I matured a lot more, became smarter in the classroom and off the field. It’s really helped me.”

Having the opportunity to observe his older brothers’ highs and lows at Tennessee has prepared him for the future onslaught of media and fans.

Last spring, after watching USC’s spring game, he went onto the field and ended up signing autographs alongside Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart.

“The one thing Casey and Rick taught me is that there are going to be people who love you and people who hate you,” he said. “And you have to take it. There’s going to be people who want to help you and help you in the wrong way. You have to do what’s right.”

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Clausen’s father, Jim, a former football coach, is trying to make sure his youngest son doesn’t become burdened by the college recruiting process or fan attention.

“We don’t want it to get too goofy,” he said. “We can’t let this get out of hand, the phone calls, the press clippings. We want him to be a young man. He has to enjoy what he’s doing. He has to enjoy being a kid.”

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How they rate

A look at the top quarterbacks in the Southland:

CITY SECTION

*--* Rk Player, School Ht. Wt. Yr. Comment 1. Mike Moustakas, 6-0 185 Jr. Terrific two-sport Chatsworth athlete 2. Richard 6-1 180 So. Ready to be impact Ragland, Venice player 3. Kyle Ochoa, Van 6-1 190 Sr. Underrated passer Nuys 4. Jeremy Camacho, 5-9 140 Sr. Passed for 2,276 Eagle Rock yards, 24 TDs 5. Daniel Kozasky, 6-0 175 Sr. Three-year starter South Gate SOUTHERN SECTION Rk Player, School Ht. Wt. Yr. Comment 1. Jimmy Clausen, 6-3 190 Jr. 58 TD passes was Oaks Christian no fluke 2. Garrett Green, 6-2 190 Sr. 25-1 record as SO Notre Dame starting QB 3. Michael 6-2 175 Sr. Nearing 10,000 Herrick, career passing Valencia yards 4. Tyler Lyon, Hart 6-6 215 Sr. Made huge summer progress 5. Chad Manis, Los 6-5 205 Sr. Watch how good he Alamitos becomes 6. Scott Saunders, 5-10 190 Sr. Completed 69% of Palm Springs his passes 7. Jeff Jansen, 6-3 200 Sr. Made lots of Diamond Bar summer improvement 8. Brian Shrock, 6-0 185 Sr. Three-year starter Edison 9. Jon Daniels, 6-1 170 Sr. Ready for big Santa Margarita season 10 Aaron Corp, 6-3 185 Jr. Passed for 2,039 Orange Lutheran yards, 13 TDs 11. Jordan LaSecla, 6-3 185 Sr. Made major jump in Newbury Park arm strength 12. Ryan Cloney, 6-1 175 Jr. Passed for 2,964 Thousand Oaks yards as sophomore 13. Ronnie Fouch, 6-2 175 Jr. Two-way threat E. Valley with his legs, arm Redlands 14. Sean Sudol, La 6-2 180 Sr. Passed for 30 TDs Sierra 15. R.J. Toman, 6-0 190 Sr. Learned plenty Mission Viejo from Mark Sanchez 16. Samson 6-4 190 Jr. Keeps getting Szakacsy, St. better Bonny 17. Tyler 6-4 200 Sr. Best small-school Robertson, L.A. passer Baptist 18. Mike Anderson, 6-2 195 Sr. Passed for 2,498 Los Osos yards 19. Chris Scott, 6-0 175 Sr. Was intercepted Corona only four times Centennial 20. Mike Cook, San 6-2 180 Sr. Completed 60% of Clemente his passes 21. Steve Crooks, 6-4 215 Sr. Threw 20 TD passes Irvine University 22. Dan Klein, 6-3 185 Jr. Passed for 1,886 Servite yards, 13 TDs 23 Cameron Ely, 6-6 215 Sr. Four interceptions San Marcos in 215 attempts 24. Dominic Salmon, 6-1 170 Sr. Passed for 27 TDs Arroyo 25 Kevin Mort, 5-10 160 Sr. Could pass for South Hills 3,000 yards 26. Dominick 5-11 175 Sr. Impressive summer Huerta, Agoura improvement 27. Grant Schwartz, 6-0 205 Sr. Runs, passes, Dana Hills succeeds 28. Forest Elder, 6-0 180 Sr. Passed for 2,281 Muir yards, 27 TDs

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Compiled by Eric Sondheimer


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