SOUTH BEND (AP) - One of the big problems in Notre Dame's 3-9 season last year was the inability to protect freshman quarterback Jimmy Clausen.

He was sacked 34 times, and the Irish gave up a school-record 58 sacks for the season. Now a sophomore, Clausen and the rest of the Irish are hoping the lumps they took last year will lead to better play this season.

But the Irish still have a young team. They have just 15 seniors, one less than last year, and just three fifth-year seniors - by far the fewest they've had the past decade. Coach Charlie Weis believes the biggest improvement comes between a player's first season of playing and his second. The Irish have eight sophomores listed as starters and four others listed as starters coming off their first significant playing times.

Weis says it's just a question of how many of them can make the jump at the same time.

Weis is hoping Clausen will be among those making a significant jump. And Clausen has a different look this year after bulking up from 194 to 217 pounds. Weis calls it a "night-and-day" difference physically.

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