Former ND teammate of Clausen offers advice to Panthers

Maybe the ship has already sailed and the Carolina Panthers have decided to use the top overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft on a quarterback, likely Cam Newton.

Panthers poised to take Newton

Steve Wyche gets the impression that the Panthers don't feel as if Jimmy Clausen is the long-term QB answer and that Cam Newton might be their guy. **More ...**

But Ian Williams wants the Panthers to know that it would be wise for them to stick with Jimmy Clausen as their quarterback. Williams, a defensive tackle from Notre Dame, was Clausen's teammate with the Fighting Irish. He said he loves Clausen "like a brother," so he is hardly neutral in his assessment of his football skills.

But Williams insists there are qualities that the quarterback possesses that are easily, and unfairly, overlooked because of the mostly poor numbers Clausen had in 10 starts as a rookie last season.

"A lot of people don't know Jimmy like the people who are around him the most," Williams told me during a recent interview on Sirius NFL Radio. "So many outsiders look at him, and they have their own opinions about him. But nobody really knows JC like we do. It's kind of tough for a rookie to come in that situation that he did with Carolina -- a young team, a young offensive line, the wide receiver (Steve Smith) was hurt for most of the season. That's kind of tough to put all that pressure on a rookie quarterback.

"But if you look back to his freshman year, when he first got (to Notre Dame) in '07, we had a tough season and Jimmy had a tough season. But he came back from that (in his) sophomore year. He picked it up and he got better every year. So I think (the Panthers) should look at that and know that JC is going to get better."

Williams shared a story of Clausen being back on the Notre Dame campus after the 2010 season to finish work toward his degree when the Panthers parted ways with coach John Fox and replaced him with Ron Rivera. Clausen dropped classes immediately, according to Williams, and flew to Charlotte so he could meet with Rivera and learn as much as possible about his new coach's ideas for the offense.

"Because that's the kind of guy he is," Williams said of Clausen. "He's not going to leave you short. He's going to give you everything he's got."

Follow Vic Carucci on Twitter @viccarucci.

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